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The US continues its drone strikes against al-Shabaab as the terrorist group keeps retreating

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The U.S. military conducted a “self-defense” drone strike in Somalia on Tuesday at the request of the Somali government.

U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) characterized it as a “collective self-defense strike” that took place about 320 miles northeast of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, in a remote location near Galmudug.

The U.S. has been helping Somalia with counterterrorism strikes more frequently in the past few months.

“The initial assessment is the strike killed 7 al-Shabaab fighters,” AFRICOM said in a statement, adding that due to the remote location, the assessment showed that no civilians were injured or killed.

AFRICOM said that in two earlier strikes this month, it took out 17 more al-Shabaab fighters. This was the sixth airstrike against al-Shabaab fighters this year.

Also on Tuesday, farther south from Galmudug in Mahaday, Somali forces eliminated at least 42 al-Shabaab fighters in a two-day battle and chased the terrorist group out of the area.

With the rise in terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa, the U.S. has increased its role in Somalia. 

Related: Counterterrorism in an age of great-power competition

The U.S. State Department and Agency for International Development (USAID) is also assisting the fledgling democratic government of Somalia which is looking at long-term solutions against terrorism that combine military security missions with economic reform, political reconciliation, and religious tolerance. 

American Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said on Tuesday in an address to the UN Security Council, prior to AFRICOM’s announcement that “over 70 towns in Hirshabelle and Galmudug have been liberated from al-Shabaab’s brutal rule since last summer.”

The terrorist group al-Shabaab has pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and is considered to be the largest and most active al-Qaeda network in the world.

The Islamic State (ISIS) has also tried to spread its influence in Somalia. In late January, a combined U.S.-Somali operation killed Bilal al-Sudani, a high-ranking ISIS operative that was responsible for spreading ISIS ideology in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Feature Image: A U.S. Reaper drone (U.S. Air Force)

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Steve Balestrieri