Al-Shabab has carried out bombings in several East African states

A coalition of US, Somali and African Union (AU) forces have carried out an assault on al-Shabab bases in the southern Somali town of Barire, some 60km from the capital, Mogadishu.

Loud explosions and gunfire were heard during the operation against the al-Qaeda-linked militants.

Residents told me that US forces were on the ground, giving cover to US-trained Somali commandos and accompanied by AU troops as they entered Barire.

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Shots were also fired from US helicopters which were flying overhead during the operation, but there were no air strikes, as earlier reported, the residents said.

They added that al-Shabab fighters fled Barire, and coalition forces entered – only to withdraw later, possibly after destroying al-Shabab bases in the town.

The militant group said its fighters had repelled the attack.The US has not yet commented on the operation, but Somali officials have confirmed the joint operation.

It is the latest sign of US forces becoming increasingly involved in Somalia in the campaign to fight al-Shabab.

Last week, US officials confirmed that its special forces had opened “defensive fire” after al-Shabab posed an “imminent threat” to Somali and AU troops.

@Ibrahim Mohamed Adan/BBC