The Somali government said on Saturday that at least 81 Islamist militants were killed in two new security operations in Jilib, in Middle Juba of southern Somalia.
Information Minister Abdurahman Omar Osman said the early Saturday operations, which were carried out by Somali and international partners, targeted a factory house and militants mobilizing to attack Gedo region.
“Somali security forces conducted special operations in Jilib district and destroyed an Al-Shabaab camp where terrorists were regrouping to launch attacks on Gedo region area,” Osman said in a statement issued in Mogadishu. “Some 81 militants were killed, a number of vehicles and heavy weapons destroyed.”
He later told Xinhua that the security forces destroyed materials used for making explosives such as TNT, RDX, potassium and sodium nitrate.
The latest strikes took place hours after Somali and U.S. special forces conducted a drone strike in Lower Shabelle region on Friday evening.
Sources said at least 13 Al-Shabaab fighters were killed by the drone attack in Basra village, near Bal’ad district, in Lower Shabelle region. The U.S. military did not disclose the number of those killed in the attack.
Osman said that Somali National Army (SNA) forces have intensified their assault on Al-Shabaab militants in Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle regions.
Jilib, a town about 380 km south of the capital Mogadishu, is a major stronghold of the al-Qaida allied militant group.
Residents said there is much tension in Jilib, which is about 120 km north of the port city of Kismayo.
“Jilib town is tense. Residents cannot talk about any incident now since their phones are being tapped by the security officials. There was a lot of bombardment this morning,” said a resident who declined to be named.
The latest operation came after Somali and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces on Monday launched a massive security operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants in Middle Shabelle region in southern Somalia.
The pan-African body plans to reduce its troops by 1,000 by December, followed by further cuts next year, an exercise expected to end by 2020 as part of its exit strategy.