U.S.-Backed Somali Troops Killed 20 Militants, Minister Says

U.S.-backed Somali forces killed 20 al-Qaeda-linked militants and captured dozens more, including senior commanders, in the south of the African nation this week, Security Minister Abdirizak Omar Mohamed said.

A unit of Somali troops acted with U.S. support in the action late Tuesday on the town of Awdhegle in Lower Shabelle region, Mohamed said in an interview in the capital, Mogadishu. He said Somalia’s army and its allies have stepped up attacks on al-Shabaab after the Islamist militants recaptured several towns.

Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Wednesday that U.S. military personnel provided helicopter transport as part of a small U.S. mission that’s training and assisting Somalia’s army, but didn’t participate in the actual raid. Awdhegle is located about 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of the capital.

Al-Shabaab has been waging an insurgency in Somalia since 2006. Tuesday’s assault followed a March 5 U.S. airstrike on a camp north of Mogadishu that the Pentagon said killed 150 fighters, a figure al-Shabaab described as exaggerated. U.S. strikes have helped weaken al-Shabaab, alongside military gains that drove the militants out of the capital and other central and southern regions over the past four years.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab said Wednesday that “white foreigners” landed forces near the Islamist group’s camps in Awdhegle and were repelled after an hour-long battle. He didn’t mention any casualties in comments broadcast on Radio Andalus, which supports the insurgency.

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