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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Friday it had killed three militants after launching an air strike in Somalia against al Shabaab, a militant Islamist group allied with al Qaeda.

The military's Africa Command (Africom) said they carried out the strike on April 5 near the town of Jilib, about 230 miles (370 km) southwest of Mogadishu.

"In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Forces conducted an air strike against Al-Shabaab militants near Jilib ... killing three terrorists and destroying one vehicle with a mounted heavy machine gun," it said in a statement.

Washington has expanded its operations in the Horn of Africa country after President Donald Trump eased combat rules last year.

Since withdrawing from the capital Mogadishu in 2011, al Shabaab lost control of most of Somalia's cities and towns. But they retain a strong presence in regions outside the capital.

On Friday, one soldier was killed by a militant who attacked a checkpoint in Mogadishu. A car bomb in the same place injured two other soldiers.

Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Aaron Maasho; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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Reuters