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Somali Military Kills Senior Al-Shabab Figures, Frees Hostages

FILE - Somali army soldiers are seen near Barawe, Somalia, Oct. 4, 2014.
FILE - Somali army soldiers are seen near Barawe, Somalia, Oct. 4, 2014.

Somalia says the country’s elite military unit has killed a senior al-Shabab commander in an operation in the Lower Shabelle region. Federal police say civilian hostages were freed during the operation.

Somali police spokesman Sadiq Adan Ali Doodishe said Somalia’s elite military unit had conducted an operation against the al-Qaida-affiliated Islamist militant group al-Shabab, killing two senior commanders and wounding 10 others.

Police say the operation’s aim was to destroy al-Shabab’s main extortion base in the small town of Mubarak, located 95 kilometers southwest of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu.

During a news conference in Mogadishu Saturday, the spokesman said the army killed a senior al-Shabab commander known by the name “Carab”, and Aw Maaye, who was in charge al-Shabab’s extortion operations in Mubarak.

Doodishe said during the operation the military freed civilian hostages from the militant group.

He said around 5:00 p.m. local time, the elite unit from the Somali national army conducted the operation targeting a place the terrorists used to extort money from civilians. In accordance with the statement from the Ministry of Information, the army killed Carab, the deputy al-Shabab leader in the town of Mubarak, and Aw Maaye, who was the al-Shabab foreman in charge of extortion. He said during the operation dozens of others were wounded, including the group’s leader in charge of Mubarak. He said at the time of the operation al-Shabab was holding civilians hostage for extortion but the army freed the hostages. Some of them were hurt during the operation.

Police have warned the public against aiding al-Shabab.

Doodishe said the public has been told that it’s a crime to have sympathy toward al-Shabab and collaborate with the group. Anyone who is engaged in that activity will be brought to justice, he added.

Local media and residents reported that there was an airstrike involved in the military operation against al-Shabab on Friday.

The Islamist group claimed that the airstrike killed 10 people and wounded 20 others, all civilians.

VOA could not independently verify the airstrike nor the civilian deaths.

Somalia has been grappling with increasing insecurity in recent years. Al-Shabab is one of the main threats and is responsible for deadly attacks across the country and in neighboring Kenya.