Pentagon strikes al Qaeda’s Somalia affiliate

Posted at 5:13 PM, Jun 04, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-04 17:13:31-04

The US military carried out several drone strikes in Somalia in the last few weeks, targeting dozens of anti-government militants who the Pentagon said were associated with the local al Qaeda affiliate, al-Shabaab.

The US military conducted an airstrike Saturday that targeted a group of al-Shabaab militants about 26 miles southwest of Bosasso, Somalia, according to US Africa Command, which oversees US military operations on the continent.

Africa Command said Monday that 27 “terrorists” were killed in that strike.

On Thursday, US forces conducted an airstrike 30 miles southwest of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. Africa Command said that strike killed 12 “terrorists.”

No civilian casualties

That strike came about a week after a US airstrike near Mogadishu that Africa Command said killed 10 al-Shabaab fighters.

Africa Command said none of the strikes were assessed to have caused civilian casualties and that all of them were carried out in coordination with the US-backed Federal Government of Somalia.

The US military has carried out 16 strikes against al-Shabaab militants, fighting positions, infrastructure and equipment in 2018, Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Sheryll Klinkel told CNN.

In 2017, the US carried out 36 airstrikes in Somalia, the largest a November strike against an al-Shabaab camp that killed more than 100 militants.

A Pentagon report issued Friday said the US believes that no civilians were killed in US military ground or air operations during 2017.

However, last month Africa Command issued a statement saying it was reviewing allegations that civilian casualties had been caused during a May 9 Somali-led and US-advised “operation to disrupt and degrade al-Shabaab’s terrorist network near Bulcida, Somalia.”

In April 2017, the Trump administration granted the head of Africa Command the authority to conduct targeted airstrikes against al-Shabaab fighters. Prior to that, the US could conduct airstrikes only in defense of US troops advising Somalian security forces on the ground.

The US estimates that al-Shabaab commands 4,000 to 6,000 active fighters, making it one of al Qaeda’s largest affiliates.