U.S. forces killed three al-Shabaab terrorists in a “self defense” airstrike at the request of the Somali government, the military said in a statement Tuesday.
The engagements took place at a remote area of Somalia roughly 22 miles north of Kismayo, a port city in the southern Lower Juba province and an important urban center for the autonomous Jubaland region, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in the statement. Initial damage assessment of the Jan. 21 airstrike showed that the “collective self-defense” airstrike killed three militants and no civilians.
AFRICOM “will continue to assess the results of this airstrike and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operational security,” the command said.
Al-Shabaab, which splintered from a notorious al-Qaeda-backed group in the early 2000s, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, has recaptured scores of communities, brutalized Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu and triggered a resurgence of joint counterstrikes by the U.S. military and Somali National Army (SNA), The Washington Post reported. AFRICOM regularly works with the recognized Somali government to target al-Shabaab terrorists.
“Al Shabaab is the largest and most active al-Qaeda network in the world and has proved both its will and capability to attack U.S. forces and threaten U.S. security interests. U.S. Africa Command, alongside its partners, continues to take action to prevent this malicious terrorist group from planning and conducting attacks on civilians,” AFRICOM said in the Tuesday statement.
The last engagement in Somalia occurred on Dec. 17,when a U.S. drone strike killed a senior terrorist leader who masterminded a plot that resulted in the deaths of three Americans in 2020, according to a Somali official. AFRICOM publicized the Dec. 17 strike in a press release but did not specify targets.
“The command’s initial assessment is that one al-Shabaab militant was killed in the strike and that there were no civilian casualties,” AFRICOM said in a statement at the time.
In 2022, President Joe Biden approved the Pentagon’s request to deploy no more than 500 troops to Somalia to help suppress al-Shabaab after former President Donald Trump ordered a near full withdrawal of U.S. military forces, CNN reported.
American military forces have also carried out rare counterterrorism operations against Islamic State (ISIS) militants, which has collaborated with al-Shabaab.
Micaela Burrow on January 23, 2024