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US Airstrike Hits Undetonated Car Bomb Outside Mogadishu

A U.S. airstrike has hit and destroyed a car bomb-in-waiting near the capital of Somalia, according to a Somali official and the U.S. military.

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said the airstrike occurred early Tuesday morning and targeted a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device about 65 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.

A statement said the vehicle belonged to militant group al-Shabab and was an "imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu." The U.S. said no civilians were killed.

Ali Enure, the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region, told VOA Somali the attack happened in the village of Mubarak.

"The vehicle was loaded with explosives intended to harm civilians," he said."Our intelligence sources in the area and local residents who saw the vehicle reported to us that the vehicle was destroyed, as a missile from a drone hit the hood."

Pro-al-Shabab websites said the targeted vehicle was a minibus transporting fruits and vegetables from a nearby farm.

Neither government officials and nor the U.S. military said how many al-Shabab fighters may have been killed.

Mubarak is a riverside militant-held village in Lower Shabelle region, where U.S. military drones have carried out more than 10 strikes for the past three years.

Since the massive October 14 truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed 512 people, the Somali National Army has increased its surprise attacks on al-Shabab hideouts while the U.S. has stepped up its drone attacks on militant targets.

Meanwhile, the Somali government said it has successfully met all necessary conditions to qualify for an international debt relief program under a World Bank and IMF initiative known as Heavily Indebted Poor Countries.

"There has recently been a general willingness from creditors and donor countries to write off Somalia's debt and now it looks the time has come as we have proven our part," said Somali Finance Minister Abdirahman Duale Beyle in a statement Tuesday.

"It's a good prospect," he said. "The IMF and the World bank will soon announce the good news."