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AU Force Says Key Al-Shabab Commander Killed 

Lower Shabelle, Somalia
Lower Shabelle, Somalia

A "chief finance controller" for the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab extremist group has been killed in an ambush on a meeting of its fighters in southern Somalia, the African Union peacekeeping mission announced Thursday.

The unnamed commander, the head of tax collection in Lower Shabelle region, was killed Monday in Bariire, the AU mission said.

The extremist group funds its deadly activities by taxing the communities under its control. It also collects taxes on millions of bags of charcoal that make their way out of the country despite a ban on the exports, according to the latest report by U.N. sanctions monitors.

Another seven al-Shabab fighters were killed Sunday when their attack on a forward operating base was "botched," the AU mission said.

The multinational AU force in the coming few years is expected to draw down and hand over responsibility for Somalia's security to the country's military, though U.S. military officials and others have warned that Somali forces are not yet ready.

Al-Shabab, which seeks to establish an Islamic state, holds rural parts of southern and central Somalia and continues to target the capital, Mogadishu, with high-profile attacks.