US targets Shabaab fighters, car bomb

The US military launched two airstrikes against Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, over the past four days. At least 17 Shabaab fighters were killed and a suicide car bomb was destroyed, according to US Africa Command (AFRICOM).

The first strike took place on Dec. 24 in “southern Somalia,” and killed 13 fighters, AFRICOM reported. The exact location of the attack was not disclosed, nor was the target.

The second occurred on Dec. 27 “approximately 25 kilometers west of the capital” of Mogadishu and killed four Shabaab operatives. The attack also destroyed a “vehicle-borne improvised explosive device,” or a car bomb that was allegedly to be used in a suicide attack, “preventing it from being used against the people in Mogadishu,” AFRICOM noted. AFRICOM conducted a similar strike on Dec. 12, halting a Shabaab car bomb also intended for the capital.

AFRICOM said the US military will continue “targeting terrorists, their training camps, and their safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.”

The US military has now launched 35 strikes against terrorist groups based in Somalia. Nearly 90 percent of those strikes (31) targeted Shabaab, while four hit the Islamic State. This year’s total more than doubles 2016’s sum of 14.

At the end of March, the Trump administration loosened restrictions on the US military’s use of force against Shabaab after the departments of Defense and State noted that Shabaab has become more lethal and dangerous. Shabaab 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.

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

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