US kills 4 Shabaab fighters in 2 separate airstrikes

The US military killed four Shabaab fighters in two separate airstrikes in central and southern Somalia between Sept. 5 and 7. The US military has stepped up its attacks on al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa after the jihadist outfit has regained ground over the past two years.

In the first strike, on Sept. 5 in the Bay Region of central Somalia, three Shabaab fighters were killed, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) noted in a press release on its website. AFRICOM launched the attack “in support of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army (SNA) forces that were operating in the area.”

In the second operation, on Sept. 7 in the town of Barawe in southern Somalia, US aircraft killed one Shabaab operative.

Barawe is a contested area in southern Somalia, and Shabaab leaders have been headquartered in the town in the past. Shabaab recently killed several Ugandan troops along the Barawe-Mogadishu corridor.

Both AFRICOM press releases noted that Shabaab “has pledged allegiance to al Qaeda and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks throughout the world.”

AFRICOM noted in the press release associated with the Sept. 7 operation in Barawe that it was “within the parameters of the authorities granted by the President in March 2017, which allows U.S. forces to conduct lethal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically-defined area in support of partner forces in Somalia.”

At the end of March, the Trump administration loosened the restrictions on the US military to use force against Shabaab after the Department of Defense noted that Shabaab has become more lethal and dangerous. The group has killed hundreds of African Union and Somali forces while overrunning bases in southern Somalia, and has maintained its safe havens while expanding areas under its control during 2016.

The US State Department, in its Country Reports on Terrorism 2016, said that al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa has prospered over the past year “due largely to lapses in offensive counterterrorism operations during 2016.” Additionally, State noted that Somali security forces “remained incapable of securing and retaking towns from al-Shabaab independently,” and while not explicitly stated, hinted that the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is failing.

AFRICOM has stepped up operations against Shabaab. Since the beginning of June, the US military has announced ten strikes against Shabaab. The targets have varied. A June 11 operation hit a Shabaab command center and logistics node. A July 4 attack targeted Shabaab fighters as they massed for an attack in the south. A July 29 airstrike killed Ali Muhammad Hussein, a senior Shabaab leader, in a strike on the Mogadishu Attack Network.

AFRICOM has loosely described raids against targets such as IED facilities and training camps as “counterterrorism operations,” when in reality these are military operations, since they are often launched against well-defended and well-defined targets in areas under direct Shabaab control. Like other al Qaeda branches, Shabaab controls a significant amount of territory and operates a military, intelligence and services, and governs areas it controls.

US operations targeting Shabaab and its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, since 2007:

Sept. 7, 2017 – AFRICOM killed one Shabaab fighter in a strike in the town of Barawe.

Sept. 5, 2017 – AFRICOM killed three Shabaab fighters in a strike in the Bay Region.

Aug. 16-17, 2017 – AFRICOM launched three strikes in Jilib and killed seven Shabaab fighters.

Aug. 11, 2017 – AFRICOM targeted Shabaab twice the Banadir area; the number of Shabaab casualties was not disclosed.

July 29, 2017 – AFRICOM killed Ali Muhammad Hussein, a senior Shabaab leader, in a strike on the Mogadishu Attack Network near the town of Tortoroow in southern Somalia.

July 4, 2017 – AFRICOM strikes Shabaab forces as they amassed 300 miles south of Mogadishu.

June 11, 2017 – US forces killed eight Shabaab fighters in an attack that targeted a command and logistic node in southern Somalia.

May 5, 2017 – A US soldier was killed near Barii while conducting an “advise and assist” mission with local forces against Shabaab.

Jan. 7, 2017 – US forces launched a self-defense strike near Gaduud during a counterterrorism operation to disrupt Shabaab. No Shabaab fighters were killed.

Sept. 28, 2016 – US forces kill nine Shabaab fighters during a raid on a Shabaab IED factory near Galcayo.

Sept. 26, 2016 – US forces kill four Shabaab fighters during raids on training camps near Kismayo.

Sept. 5, 2016 – The US launched two “self-defense strikes” near Tortoroow after a large Shabaab force attacked a “a Somali-led counterterrorism operation.” Four Shabaab fighters were killed.

Aug. 30, 2016 – US forces killed two Shabaab fighters after they attacked a Somali counterterrorism force near Gobanale.

June 21, 2016 – US troops “conducted a self-defense strike against Shabaab, killing three. The operation was conducted after it was assessed the terrorists were planning and preparing to conduct an imminent attack against US forces.”

May 31, 2016 – Somali troops, backed by US forces, killed Shabaab member Mohammed Dulyadeen, a.k.a. Mohammed Kuno and Kuno Gamadere, during an operation near Gaduud.

May 27, 2016 – The US killed Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, “a senior military commander” for Shabaab, in south-central Somalia.

May 13, 2016 – The US launched “defensive fire missions” which “took place in remote locations in Somalia under al-Shabaab control.”

May 12, 2016 – The US launched “defensive fire missions” which “took place in remote locations in Somalia under al-Shabaab control.”

May 12, 2016 – The US launched “defensive fire missions” which “took place in remote locations in Somalia under al-Shabaab control.”

May 9, 2016 – The US launched “defensive fire missions” which “took place in remote locations in Somalia under al-Shabaab control.”

March 31, 2016 – The US killed Hassan Ali Dhoore, a dual hatted al Qaeda and Shabaab leader who also served in the Amniyat, in an airstrike.

March 10, 2016 – US Special Operations Forces targeted a Shabaab training camp in Awdigle raid.

March 5, 2016 – The US military announced that it launched an airstrike which targeted a Shabaab’s “Raso Camp” north of the Somali capital of Mogadishu. The US justified the strike on al Qaeda’s official East African branch by saying that fighters there “posed an imminent threat.” More than 150 Shabaab fighters are said to have been killed.

Dec. 2, 2015 – US killed Abdirahman Sandhere, a.k.a. Ukash, a senior Shabaab leader, and two other “associates” in an airstrike.

March 12, 2015 – The US military confirmed that it killed Adan Garaar, a senior official in the Amniyat and “a key operative responsible for coordinating al-Shabaab’s external operations” in a drone strike.

Feb. 3, 2015 – US troops targeted and killed Yusuf Dheeq, the head of the Amniyat.

Dec. 29, 2014 – US forces killed Tahlil Abdishakur, the leader of the Amniyat, in an airstrike in Somalia.

Sept. 1, 2014 – The US military killed Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of and emir of Shabaab, also known as Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, in an airstrike south of Mogadishu.

Jan. 25, 2014 – A US airstrike killed Sahal Iskudhuq, a senior Shabaab commander who served as a high-ranking member of the Amniyat.

Oct. 23, 2013 – A US drone strike killed Anta Anta “the mastermind of al Shabab’s suicide missions.”

Oct. 5, 2013 – US Special Operations Forces targeted Shabaab’s external operations chief Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir (Ikrima), but fails to capture or kill him. A Swedish and a Sudanese Shabaab fighter were killed.

Jan. 2012 – A US airstrike killed Bilal al Berjawi, a British national of Lebanese descent.

Sept. 2009 – US Special Operations Forces killed Saleh ali Nabhan, a top al Qaeda and Shabaab leader who was involved in the Kenya and Tanzania bombings.

May 2008 – A US airstrike killed senior Shabaab and al Qaeda leader Aden Hashi Ayro.

March 2008 – A US airstrike targeted a safe house in Somalia.

Spring 2008 – The US killed Aden Hashi Ayro and Sheikh Muhyadin Omar in an airstrike in the spring of 2008. Before his death, Ayro was the leader of Shabaab.

June 2007 – US targeted Saleh ali Nabhan, a top al Qaeda and Shabaab leader who was involved in the Kenya and Tanzania bombings.

Jan. 2007 – The US military targeted Abu Taha al-Sudani (or Tariq Abdullah), Qaeda’s leader in East Africa, and either Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. Fazul is al Qaeda’s operations chief for East Africa, while Sudani is the chief strategist and ideologue. Sudani is thought to have been killed in that airstrike (Shabaab said he was killed in an airstrike in 2007.)

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal. Alexandra Gutowski is a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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