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US strike targets vehicle bomb in Somalia

© AFP/File | AFRICOM says the vehicle it struck was to be used in a bomb attack such as this one in Mogadishu on October 28, 2017

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

US forces in Somalia have conducted a strike against a bomb-laden vehicle that was going to be used against civilians in Mogadishu, the US military's Africa Command said Wednesday.

The strike against Al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab militants occurred early January 2 about 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the capital.

It killed "two terrorists and (destroyed) one vehicle-borne improvised explosive device, preventing it from being used against the people in Mogadishu," AFRICOM said in a statement.

"We assess no civilians were killed in this strike," the statement read.

The Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow successive internationally backed governments in Mogadishu since 2007 and frequently deploys car and truck bombs against military, government and civilian targets.

The group lost its foothold in Mogadishu in 2011 but has continued its fight and still controls vast rural areas and is widely blamed for the country's worst ever bombing, which in October left 512 dead.

According to a study released Wednesday by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington think tank, the United States conducted 35 air strikes in Somalia in 2017, a big increase over prior years.

The additional strikes come as part of a broader push by the Trump administration to increase anti-jihadist actions across the region, including in Yemen.

© 2018 AFP