At least 81 al-Shabaab militants were killed in Jilib province in two new security operations, said Information Minister Abdurahman Osman on Sunday.

In a tweet, Somalia Information Minister Abdirahman Osman said 81 militants were killed and weapons were destroyed.

“Security forces conducted a coordinated attack on militant camps in Jilib, southern Somalia, killing 81 militants and destroying 5 pick up cars, weapons and ammunitions. Those militants killed in the attack were planning to go to Gedo region,” wrote Osman.

The spokesman of al-Shabab, Abdulaziz abu Musab, denied there was an attack against the militants’ camp in Jilib town. In a message posted on a pro-al-Shabaab website, Musab said the government’s statement that 81 militants were killed is baseless.

Somali officials say the ongoing operation against the extremist group is paving the way for a large-scale offensive against al-Shabab. Somali leaders, including the president, declared last month that preparations are underway.

The information minister told state run SONNA news agency that, Somalian forces and international partners conducted the two different operations.

“Some 81 militants were killed, a number of vehicles and heavy weapons destroyed.” Osman said.

Also Africa Command (AFRICOM) said the midnight air strike on Friday near Mogadishu’s Shabel region killed a wide range of al-Shabaab militants.

Al-Shabaab has publicly boasted of its alliance with al-Qaeda and has been warring against Somalia’s internationally recognized government for control of the country since it was ousted from the capital by African Union-led forces in 2011.

Abdirahman Omar Osman also added that the forces destroyed materials for explosive elements including TNT, RDX, Potasium Nitrate, sodium nitrate and other weapons from the militants during the operation.

“Security agencies carried out two attacks against Al-Shabaab in Jilib town, Al-Shabaab militants convoys were also targeted while military operation in lower and middle Shabelle regions continue”, Mr. Osman said.

He added that the public gave a positive contribution to forces in fight against the enemy while thanking them to the role that they have taken.

Amisom troops last weeks launched a massive operation to flush out Al-Shabaab militants in Lower Shabelle region and secure main supply routes in the area.

Lt Col, Israel Kaheru Bagenda, the Commanding Officer of 11 Infantry Battalion of Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) said the operation would be conducted in phases by both AMISOM and Somali National Army (SNA) troops.

This followed after information received that Al-Shabaab militants were destabilizing areas along Afgooye- Balidoogle road, Afgooye town mainly around Elasha Biyaha- Mogadishu Road and surrounding areas of Jambalulu, Baghdad and Basra.

This comes just after a day when U.S. forces conducted an airstrike against al-Shabab Friday night, killing several militants outside Mogadishu, according to U.S. and Somali military officials.

A Somali military official told VOA at least 13 militants were killed when a drone missile hit militants in Basra village in the Lower Shabelle region, about 30 kilometers north of Mogadishu.