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US Airstrike in Somalia kills 12 al-Shabaab fighters

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On February 10, U.S. conducted an airstrike in central Somalia that killed 12 fighters from the terrorist group al-Shabaab. U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced that in support of the Somali government’s army, they targeted a group of Shabaab fighters about 28 miles southwest of the Indian Ocean port town of Hobyo, about 300 miles northeast of Mogadishu.

“Rooting out extremism requires intervention beyond traditional military means,” AFRICOM said adding that no civilians were killed or injured in the strike, according to an initial assessment.

AFRICOM will not release details about the units and assets involved to ensure operational security.

The Somali government claimed that the strike occurred in the town of Amara, located in Galmudug state and that 117 additional al-Shabaab fighters were killed during a firefight with Somali forces.

Somali forces were heavily engaged with a-lShabaab fighters who were using a trench system when the airstrike was requested, according to Brigadier General Mohamed Tahlil Bihi, infantry commander of the Somali national army.

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Suspected al-Shabaab fighters captured during a joint Somali-African Union mission, 2014 (Photo by Tobin Jones/AMISOM Public Information)

Al-Shabaab is the largest and one of the most deadly al-Qaeda affiliates in the world.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has said that military operations to take back territory from al-Shabaab is only a part of the solution to improve Somalia’s security situation. The government is also targeting terrorism through economic reform, religious tolerance, and political reconciliation.

The U.S. has returned about 500 troops to Somalia after President Trump removed all of the troops in the final days of his administration. American Special Forces operators have been training the Somali Danab Special Forces Brigade. The Turkish army is also involved in the training of Somali troops and providing air support to the Somalis.

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The airstrike last week was the fourth “collective self-defense” airstrike that the U.S. has conducted this year. Those have resulted in the killing of 48 Shabaab fighters. 

In late January, a joint operation between American and Somali special forces resulted in the killing of Bilal al-Sudani, a key Islamic State Somalia branch commander, and 10 fighters operating out of a cave complex in the mountainous region of Somalia. 

General Michael Langley, the commander of AFRICOM, said in a statement that the military effort to fight terrorism is just a part of the U.S. support for Somalia.

“Our Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) colleagues have programs that help build resilience through education and training; develop agricultural diversity; improve markets and trade; and strengthen democracy and good governance,” he added.

Feature Image: Somali soldiers during training in Turkey, November 2018. (Photo by Ayanl3/Wikimedia Commons)

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Steve Balestrieri