US military strikes Shabaab training camp

The US military announced that it launched an airstrike which targeted a Shabaab “camp” north of the Somali capital of Mogadishu on March 5. The US justified the strike on al Qaeda’s official East African branch by saying that fighters there “posed an imminent threat.”

The announcement was made today in a press release attributed to Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook. According to media reports from Somalia, more than 150 Shabaab fighters were killed in the operation, but the numbers could not be independently confirmed. Cook said that “manned and unmanned aircraft” were used in the attack.

A Shabaab spokesman confirmed the attack but denied the group lost 150 fighters in the strike.

“The U.S. bombed an area controlled by al Shabaab,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters. “But they exaggerated the figure of casualties. We never gather 100 fighters in one spot for security reasons. We know the sky is full of planes.”

The strike took place against the “Raso Camp” in the town of Raso in Bulobarde province. Raso is more than 100 miles due north of the capital of Mogadishu. The location of the camp serves as a reminder that Shabaab controls areas near Mogadishu that are far from the visible fighting further south.

Cook said the attacked was launched on March 5 “in self-defense and in defense of our African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) partners.” The camp was described as a “a training facility,” and “the fighters who were scheduled to depart the camp posed an imminent threat to US and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces in Somalia.”

“The removal of these fighters degrades al Shabaab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, including recruiting new members, establishing bases, and planning attacks on US and AMISOM forces,” Cook said in the release.

However, the true effects of the operation are difficult to gauge. The US and the Kenyan military have launched multiple airstrikes against Shabaab’s military and top leaders. Most recently, in December 2015, the US said it killed Abdirahman Sandhere and two other “associates” in an airstrike. The US military described the death of Sandhere as “”a significant blow to al-Shabaab.” The deaths of other senior Shabaab leaders, including the group’s last emir and the two previous leaders of the Amniyat, Shabaab’s intelligence service, were followed by similar proclimations by the military.

Shabaab has since proceeded to launch sophisticated ambushes on Kenyan and AMISOM forces in southern Somalia, and has regained control of several towns in the south since Sandhere was killed.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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5 Comments

  • Kevin Cooney says:

    Nice. This is what we should be doing – wiping out the rank-and-file and not just pin-prick raids against the leaders.

  • David says:

    “Justified it”? Why would we need to justify an attack on mortal enemies? Would someone be complaining if the threat weren’t imminent?

  • Evan says:

    Why is there any “need,” to justify this strike at all?
    Does the world et al. not know and understand that we are at war with these maniacs?
    Why must we make excuses of “self defense?” We have EVERY right to seek out and eliminate ANYONE foolish enough to involve themselves in this or any other effort that threatens us in any way.
    If a “person,” 3 blocks over has declared his intent to come to my home, while I’m sleeping or gone or whatever, rape and murder my wife and children, and then burn my house to the ground, and then that person makes public statements to this effect, posts videos of himself training for this mission, attempts to use his “religion,” to justify his intended actions, etc.
    Do I not have every right, and in fact, am I not duty and honor bound to seek him out and kill him first?
    This is obviously hypothetical, and I’m on the best of terms with all of my neighbors, but I believe that it gets the point across well nontheless.
    If you say no, then, at what point exactly am I morally and ethically obligated to act? After he’s done what he’s been saying he would do? When he shows up at my home with a shotgun, a machete, and a can of gas?
    No, I think not.
    These people are the enemies of the entire free world and must be dealt with as such.

  • A. N. says:

    Nice work. Is 150 some sort of record?

  • Dennis says:

    Maybe if we had extended an invitation to them of the job fair going on in Mogadishu. ….this may not have ended like this.

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