US attacks al-Shabab in Somalia

Al-Shabab fighters in  Mogadishu, Somalia (5 March 2012)Al-Shabab, which wants an Islamic state in Somalia, has been on the defensive in recent months after being driven out of Mogadishu in 2011

The US has carried out a military operation against al-Shabab militants in Somalia, officials say.

The Pentagon is assessing the results of Monday’s operation before releasing details, a spokesman said.

However a US official quoted by the American media said “a senior al-Shabab operative” had been targeted.

The al-Qaeda-linked group lost control of Mogadishu to an African Union (AU) force in 2011 but still hold many southern and central areas.

“We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate,” Pentagon spokesman John F Kirby said in a statement.

Ugandan soldiers, part of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), preparing to advance on the town of Kurtunwaarey in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia (1 September 2014)The 22,000-member AU force in Somalia is pushing al-Shabab into rural area in the south of Somalia

Civilians who had left the town of Bulomarer when it was held by al-Shabab militants, return following the town's capture by African Union (AU) and Somali government soldiers (1 September 2014)Civilians were able to return to the town of Bulomarer on Monday after al-Shabab militants were forced out by African Union and Somali soldiers

A destroyed car after an attack by suspected militants at the Jilacow underground cell inside a national security compound in Mogadishu (31 August 2014) Al-Shabab militants on Sunday unsuccessfully tried to free other extremists held in a Mogadishu detention centre

The American action comes after al-Shabab rebels attacked a detention centre in Mogadishu on Sunday, in an apparent effort to free other militants detained there.

Somali officials said all of the attackers, as well as three government soldiers and two civilians, were killed.

The Pentagon and the US state department have supported the 22,000-member AU force that drove al-Shabab from their former strongholds in the capital and other urban centres.

The militants continue to carry out bombings and assassinations in the city.

Al-Shabab fighters want to overthrow the internationally supported Somali government and frequently attack government targets as well as neighbouring countries that provide troops to the AU force.

The group said it carried out last year’s attack on the Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in which at least 67 people were killed.