The United States attacked al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia in the southern town of Jilib, a recurring strike location and known Shabaab safe haven. The strike killed three terrorists and destroyed a vehicle with a mounted heavy machine gun yesterday afternoon, according to a US Forces Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release today.
The US has now conducted a total of eleven strikes in Somalia in 2018, all of which have targeted Shabaab, AFRICOM Media Relations Officer Samantha Reho told FDD’s Long War Journal. Strikes in 2018 have been concentrated in and around Jilib, including nearby Jamaame and an unspecified location outside of Kismayo. The plurality of American strikes in both 2018 and the decade-long air campaign have occurred in Jilib.
Jilib is a known safe haven for Shabaab. The US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism for 2016 noted that the Jubba River Valley serves as an operational hub, as Shabaab controls “several villages and towns throughout Jubaland region, including Janaale, Jilib, and Kunyo Barow.”
Although strikes have been concentrated in the vicinity of Jilib, AFRICOM has also targeted Shabaab across Somalia. Last week’s strike in El Burr, nearly 400 miles away from Jilib, demonstrates Shabaab’s geographic scope.
Shabaab has maintained a potent insurgency across Somalia for well over a decade. At times it has controlled the Somali capital of Mogadishu and other major cities such as Kismayo. Shabaab was ousted from the major cities during an African Union offensive that began in 2011. However, Shabaab has maintained control of its forces and retreated to rural outposts, where it still wreaks havoc from small towns and villages to this day.