Several killed in Somalia airstrike

A member of the Somali security forces stands guard during an operation against Shebab rebels in Mogadishu on December 8, 2014 (AFP Photo/Mohamed Abdiwahab) (AFP/File)

Mogadishu (AFP) - Several people are believed to have been killed in an airstrike in southern Somalia apparently targetting a house used by members of the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab militia, officials and witnesses said Sunday.

A Shebab source confirmed a missile hit the Islamist-held stronghold of Dinsoor, 270 kilometres (170 miles) west of the capital Mogadishu, late Saturday, but declined to give details on who was targeted and how many casualties there were from the attack.

Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, a Somali government official in the lower Shabele region, said several Shebab militants died.

"Many Al-Shebab militants were killed in the airstrike," he said, without giving details on who was targeted and which country carried out the attack.

A resident in Dinsoor, Ali Yare, told AFP by telephone that four civilians may have been wounded or killed in the attack.

"We heard a very loud explosion and a few minutes later I saw cars rushing to the scene, some of them returned with casualties. Four civilians were among the casualties," he said. "We don't know who was the target because the area was sealed off."

In September last year the Shebab's leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a US airstrike, and Washington carried out another strike in December, killing who Somali officials said was a top Shebab intelligence official.

The United States has no permanently deployed ground force in Somalia but supports the government and sometimes deploys air power or special forces against targets linked to Al-Qaeda.