A deputy leader of Al-Shabaab splinter group Islamic State was on Sunday killed following a joint operation between US solders and Somalia National Army as Kenya intensified search for abducted Cuban doctors.

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Abdisamad Mohamed Gallan, security Minister of the Puntland region, told VOA Somali the airstrike that killed Abdihakim Mohamed Ibrahim, known as Dhoqob, took place Sunday between the villages of Hol Anod and Hiriro.

Gallan said the strike hit the vehicle Dhoqob and another passenger were travelling in. He said both men were killed but the other person has not yet been identified.

"The vehicle was burned," said a witness who didn't want to be named.

IS Somalia is led by Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, a former scholar for al-Shabab. In October 2015 he defected from the group and pledged his allegiance to IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Dhoqob was Mumin's right-hand-man and has appeared in videos produced by the group. Mumin himself survived another airstrike in his mountainous hideout in Bari region in November 2017.

"Killing one of their top leaders will speed up their eradication," Gallan said.

For months now, Al-Shabaab, the largest terror partner of Al Qaida in the world, has been fighting with the IS, accusing it of splitting the Jihad war in the war torn country.

The strike comes as Kenyan troops intensified search and rescue mission in Somalia following kidnapping of two Cuban doctors working in Mandera. 

Elders from Mandera have also crossed the border to negotiate with their counterparts in Somalia over the release of the doctors. Last month, KDF airstrike killed a Kenyan-born Al-Shabaab commander.

A driver attached to the two doctors is in police custody after it emerged that he was in constant communication with suspected attackers. The abduction had led to withdrawal of doctors from four counties.