Mogadishu (ANN)-The US military claims that its airstrikes have killed 52 members of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group in southern Somalia.

The US Africa Command said the fatalities took place in Somalia’s Middle Juba region, where the militants had launched a car bombing attack on a Somali military base near Jilib, at least located 360km to the southwest of the capital Mogadishu.

Pictures taken at the scene after the strikes and seen by Reuters showed a large burnt-out flatbed truck surrounded by charred bodies.

The US military claimed no civilians had been killed or injured in Saturday’s strike.

There have been many ambiguities surrounding US airstrikes and bombardments in the rural regions of Somalia, a war-torn country still reeling from more than two decades of militancy.

Washington claims that it coordinates such air raids with the Somali government.        

Al-Shabab, Africa’s most-feared militant group which has links to al-Qaeda, still controls large parts of land in southern Somalia. The group has a history of fighting Somalia’s government since the 1990s.

The US military has stepped up its airstrikes in the Horn of Africa nation after getting President Donald Trump’s approval in 2017 for expanded military operations there.

The Pentagon has been carrying out airstrikes and ground raids in Somalia for a decade, initially using helicopters and AC-130 gunships.

In June 2011, American forces began using drones to carry out the strikes, in a mission which has so far failed to uproot militancy in the country.

Human rights groups in countries where the US conducts similar airstrikes, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, regularly complain about the civilian causalities caused by such raids.

Military observers say the US has been stepping up its operations in Somalia and other African countries in mostly quiet efforts to expand its military foothold across the continent.

Despite being ousted from large parts of the south and central Somalia, al-Shabab continues deadly attacks across the country, which has been ravaged by decades of war and poverty.

The militant group aims to topple the Western-backed government in Mogadishu and drive out African Union (AU) peacekeeping troops. It has been carrying out militancy since 2006.

The AU has announced that it will be withdrawing 1,000 of its troops as part of a plan to fully withdraw from the heavily-fractured country by 2020.

The terrorist group has also fought neighboring governments in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda.

The Saturday attack came four days after al-Shabab raided a Nairobi hotel and office compound, claiming the lives of at least 21 people.