US strike kills three Shabaab fighters in Somalia

US forces killed three members of al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia and East Africa, Shabaab, in an airstrike on Feb. 19. The strike was executed in the southern city of Jilib, according to a US Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release today.

According to USAF Major Karl J. Wiest, US forces have now conducted four strikes in Somalia in 2018, all of which targeted Shabaab. AFRICOM has released details on three. In addition to the strike this week, US forces have targeted Shabaab outside of Kismayo and the capital city, Mogadishu.

In 2017, US forces conducted a record 35 strikes in Somalia, outnumbering the combined strikes of the entire previous air campaign, which began in 2007. The sharp increase in strikes in Somalia can be partly explained by AFRICOM’s expanded remit in Somalia. In late March, the Trump administration loosened restrictions on the US military to use force against Shabaab, following Department of State and Defense assessments of the enhanced Shabaab threat. Last year also included the first air assaults against the Islamic State in Somalia, which was targeted in four strikes.

Alexandra Gutowski is the senior military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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