U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has confirmed a U.S. airstrike killed more than a dozen al-Shabab militants in Somalia this week, the deadliest strike against the terror group in months.
VOA first reported the strike on Monday.
AFRICOM said at a press release Wednesday they struck al-Shabab terrorists who were “actively attacking Somali National Army forces” in a remote location near Teedaan, Somalia, on Sunday.
“The command’s initial assessment is that the strike killed 13 al-Shabaab terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed,” AFRICOM said.
Military officials in central Somalia told VOA by phone on Monday that the U.S. airstrike had killed 14 al-Shabab fighters in Somalia’s central region of Hiran.
The Somali military added that it captured the group’s main stronghold in the region, located outside the town of Mahas, and also destroyed its hideouts.
Last week AFRICOM said it conducted an airstrike outside Beledweyne, the capital of the Hiran region that borders Ethiopia. AFRICOM said that airstrike, also conducted in support of the Somali national army, killed four al-Shabab terrorists.
Abdurahman Sheikh Azhari, director of the Mogadishu-based Centre for Analysis and Strategic Studies, told VOA the U.S. is increasing its role in Somalia again as “part of ongoing U.S. strategic policy and interest in the region,” noting that President Joe Biden has pledged to return the small U.S. troop presence that was withdrawn by former president Donald Trump.
The recent airstrikes follow the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as Somalia’s new president and Mohamud’s pledge to fight al-Shabab on all fronts.
Daniel Furnad, the associate director for the Nairobi-based Farsight Africa Group, said that AFRICOM is selecting its targets carefully and only participates in actions that have little chance for civilian collateral damage, while eliminating high-value resources for al-Shabab.
He added that Washington is concerned about al-Shabab widening its scope of operations to include Ethiopia, but adds he doesn’t think the airstrikes in Somalia are related to al-Shabab’s recent incursions into Ethiopian territory.