US strikes Shabaab south of Somalia’s capital

US forces attacked al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia southwest of Mogadishu on Monday, US Forces Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced. The strike took place near Mubaarak, a Shabaab-held village just 40 miles southwest of the capital city.

The March 19 strike killed two Shabaab terrorists and wounded an additional three more, according to the AFRICOM statement released today.

AFRICOM last conducted a strike near Mubaraak in Dec. 2017. That strike successfully destroyed a Shabaab suicide car bomb, or vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), removing “an imminent threat to the people of Mogadishu.” Although Monday’s strike also destroyed a vehicle, the press release did not mention an imminent attack.

This is the ninth American strike in Somalia in 2018, Robyn M. Mack, an AFRICOM media relations told FDD’s Long War Journal. Only six of the strikes have been detailed in AFRICOM press releases.

This pace puts the air campaign on track to meet or exceed its record year in 2017. Last year, the United States launched 35 airstrikes in Somalia, more than the combined number of strikes for the entire previous air campaign, which began in 2007.

All of strikes in Somalia in 2018 have targeted Shabaab; the Islamic States’ fledgeling branch in Somalia has not been hit so far this year. The United States began targeting the Islamic State in the country in Nov. 2017.

Mack added that the US air campaign against Shabaab and the Islamic State in Somalia aims to “degrade the group’s ability to recruit, train, and plot terror attacks in Somalia, throughout the region, and against the U.S. homeland.”

Shabaab retains a potent insurgency despite the US targeting and engagement from the Somali government and African Union forces. Over the past several years, the group has launched attacks that have 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. Shabaab also controls large rural areas and some towns in southern and central Somalia.

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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