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US strike reportedly hits Somalia rebels

WASHINGTON — The US military carried out a missile strike against a top Al Shabab operative in Somalia on Monday, according to Defense Department officials, three weeks after a Navy SEAL raid in another part of the country failed to capture a senior leader of the Somali Islamic militant group.

The US strike is the latest evidence that the Obama administration has decided to escalate operations against Al Shabab after a siege at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, last month in which more than 60 men, women, and children were killed. A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the strike, referring questions to the Pentagon.

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Preliminary evidence by the military indicated that the attack killed its intended target, Ibrahim Ali, an explosives specialist for Al Shabab known for skill in building and using homemade bombs and suicide vests, a US official said.

“He’s been identified as someone we’ve been tracking for a long time,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the mission was conducted by the military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command.

Residents in the Somali town of Jilib reported that a huge explosion hit a car carrying Al Shabab commanders traveling to Baraawe, a town that is one of the militant group’s strongholds.

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