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U.S. military says Somalia airstrikes kill 62 al-Shabaab militants

The U.S. military says it carried out six airstrikes in the Gandarshe area of Somalia over the weekend, killing dozens of al-Shabaab rebels.

Aerial bombings have increased since Trump approved expanded military operations in the country

Armed al-Shabab fighters on pickup trucks prepare to travel into Mogadishu from just outside the city on Dec. 8, 2008. The U.S. military says its airstrikes have killed dozens of militants with the group in recent days. (Farah Abdi Warsameh/Associated Press)

The U.S. military says it carried out six airstrikes in the Gandarshe area of Somalia over the weekend, killing dozens of al-Shabaab rebels.

Four of the strikes took place on Dec. 15, killing 34 people. Two more were conducted on Dec. 16, killing 28. The air attacks targeted Gandarshe, south of the capital, Mogadishu, the military said.

No civilians were injured or killed in the attacks, it said.

The strikes were carried out in close co-ordination with Somalia's government and were "conducted to prevent al-Shabaab from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks," said the U.S. military statement.

The military's comments about the number of dead and that no civilians were killed haven't been independently verified.

Al-Shabab uses parts of southern and central Somalia to plot and direct extremist attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radicals, said U.S. military statement.

Long-running insurgency

With these attacks, the military has carried out at least 46 airstrikes this year against al-Shabaab, which is allied with al-Qaeda and is Africa's most active Islamic militant group. Al-Shabaab controls parts of rural southern and central Somalia and continues to stage deadly attacks in Mogadishu and other cities.

The United States carries out regular airstrikes in Somalia in support of a UN-backed government there, which has been fighting against an al Shabaab insurgency for years.

American airstrikes have picked up dramatically since U.S. President Donald Trump took office and approved expanded military operations in the Horn of Africa country. U.S. airstrikes have also targeted a small presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Several years ago, al-Shabab controlled large swaths of Somalia, including much of the capital city. The African Union forces succeeded in pushing the extremists from Mogadishu and most other major cities.

However, al-Shabab continues to be active in Somalia's rural areas and launches suicide car bomb attacks in the capital. In October last year, a massive truck bomb killed more than 500 people.

With files from CBC News and Reuters