Somalia's special forces killed 16 members of Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab, including the alleged mastermind behind a terrorist attack in neighbouring Kenya that left 148 dead, officials said on Wednesday.

Special forces killed Mohamed Mohamud Ali, who is also known as Mohamed Kuno or Gamadhere, during a raid near the town of Kismayo, 500 kilometres south of the capital, Mogadishu, according to regional security minister Abdirashid Janan.

In April, Al-Shabaab militants took control of a university campus in the town of Garissa, gunning down people they identified as Christians. The 15-hour siege ended with security forces killing the four attackers.

The attack was the deadliest by al-Shabaab in Kenya, which the Islamists have targeted due to the presence of Kenyan peacekeepers in neighbouring Somalia.

Separately, the US said it had targeted a senior commander of the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab in Somalia in a Friday airstrike, but US officials were still working to determine if he had been killed in the strike.

The strike targeted Abdullahi Haji Da'ud, whom the Pentagon described as one of the group's "most senior military planners" responsible for attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda. His position included head of the group's security and intelligence branch.

"We are confident that the removal from the terrorist network of this experienced al-Shabaab commander with extensive operational experience will disrupt near-term attack planning, potentially saving many innocent lives," spokesman Peter Cook said.

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