The intelligence officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media said the overnight airstrike hit a training school and nearby hospital in Sakow, a town in Middle Jubba region. They said those targeted include longtime commander Hassan Yaqub.
It was not clear who carried out the strike. The U.S. Africa Command, which has carried out more than 20 airstrikes in Somalia this year, said it has not carried out a strike there since Sept. 11.
Neighboring Kenya also has carried out airstrikes against al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in sub-Saharan Africa. And over the weekend neighboring Ethiopia's state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported that Ethiopia's air force killed about 70 al-Shabab extremists in a rare airstrike.
Al-Shabab said three children were killed in this latest airstrike, and an elder in the town told The Associated Press that several young al-Shabab recruits were dead and the training school run by the extremists was largely destroyed. The elder spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
The extremist group in messages posted by its Shahada News Agency said the drone attack destroyed Sakow town's general hospital.
Al-Shabab, which is fighting both Somalia's fragile government and an African Union force, has been accused of indoctrinating and training youth as fighters. The group continues to control parts of southern and central Somalia and carries out bombings against high-profile targets in the capital, Mogadishu.
Next month the Horn of Africa nation will mark the first anniversary of a truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed 512 people, the country's deadliest attack. It has been blamed on al-Shabab.
In the next few years Somali forces are expected to take over responsibility for the country's security as the AU force withdraws. Concerns about Somali troops' readiness remain high, and the U.N. Security Council recently voted to delay the handover's target date to December 2021.
Political frictions also complicate the country's security as regional governments in recent days announced they were suspending cooperation with the federal government.
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