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Somali air strike kills four people

An air strike in southern Somalia's Lower Shabelle region has killed four people, reported to be Al Shabaab militants, officials and witnesses said Friday.

Al shabaab somalia 2012 02 22Enlarge
Al Shabaab still controls much of southern and central Somalia, but is under increasing pressure from Kenyan forces in the south and Ethiopian forces in the west. (AFP/AFP/Getty Images)

An air strike in war-torn southern Somalia has killed four people reported to be Al Shabaab militants, officials and witnesses said Friday.

“An Al Qaeda commander was targeted in Lower Shabelle early on Friday morning, a missile struck and destroyed his vehicle, killing him and several colleagues,” a Somali government official told the Agence France Presse.

Local residents confirmed the attack, which they said struck a Land Cruiser travelling 60 kilometers south of the capital, Mogadishu.

It is unclear who fired the missiles, which were reportedly shot from five helicopters, according to the BBC.

More from GlobalPost: Kenya's drive against Al Shabaab

Kenyan forces, who have recently occupied areas of southern Somalia previously controlled by Al Shabaab, have launched multiple airborne attacks in the region since October, according to the Associated Press.

However, the blast was far bigger than any attack carried out by Kenyan forces to date. The US military has a base in neighbouring Dijbouti, and has previously carried out drone strikes in Somalia.

A number of air strikes have been reported in recent months but no claims of responsibility have been made.

At a major conference in London on Thursday, where world leaders gathered to discuss the failed state’s future, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohammed Ali called for air strikes against radical Islamist militants as long as civilians were not harmed in the attacks.

While Al Shabaab still controls much of southern and central Somalia, it is under increasing pressure on three fronts from regional forces.

On Wednesday Ethiopian and Somali troops seized the strategic town of Baidoa in south-central Somalia from Al Shabaab. The town was the group’s second most important base after the southern port of Kismayo. 

More from GlobalPost: Somalia's Al Shabaab losing ground in Africa 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/africa/120224/somali-air-strike-kills-four-people