US Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched two “kinetic strikes” against Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, earlier today. The US military has now targeted Shabaab in three separate operations over the past two weeks.
Today’s two strikes took place “near the Banadir region in southern Somalia,” according to AFRICOM. Banadir is the administrative district which encompasses the capital of Mogadishu.
AFRICOM did not provide the targets of the two strikes or announce if any Shabaab leaders or fighters, or civilians, were killed or wounded in the operation. AFRICOM said it would “continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as appropriate.”
The last attack on Shabaab, which took place on July 30, killed Ali Muhammad Hussein, a Shabaab commander who is also known as Ali Jabal. According to AFRICOM, Ali Jabal “was responsible for leading al-Shabaab forces operating in the Mogadishu and Banadir regions in planning and executing attacks against the capital of Mogadishu.”
FDD’s Long War Journal has recorded 37 such operations against Shabaab or the Islamic Courts since 2006. The number of US military operations in Somalia may well be higher, however, it has been difficult to track strikes against Shabaab as there are multiple actors involved in targeting the group, including Kenyan and Ethiopian sources. The US military has not released statements for every encounter. Additionally, for a long period of time, Iranian news outlets muddied the waters by attributing nearly every action against Shabaab in southern Somalia as a US drone strike. Verifiable press reporting has also been inconsistent.
Under the Trump administration, the US military has stepped up its targeting of Shabaab since the group gained ground in 2016. The US State Department attributed some of Shabaab’s gains “due largely to lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations during 2016.”
Last year, Shabaab attacks killed hundreds of African Union forces from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Ethiopia. These Shabaab assaults have forced African Union troops to withdraw from some cities and towns in southern Somalia, including one as recently as last week, when Shabaab took control of the town of Lego.