US strikes Shabaab in central Somalia

US forces conducted a strike against al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia over the weekend. On Apr. 1, US forces killed five Shabaab terrorists and destroyed one vehicle in a central Somali town, according to a US Forces Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release today.

The operation, which occurred in El Burr, is the north-most strike in Somalia this year. The town is located in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Galmudug region and has been regularly contested by Shabaab. Most recently, Shabaab captured El Burr in Apr. 2017, following the withdraw of Ethiopian troops. The town has changed hands numerous times, including in 2012 and 2014.

The location of last weekend’s strike highlights the geographical range of US operations against Shabaab, and the scope of the al Qaeda branch’s insurgency. So far in 2018, AFRICOM has targeted Shabaab as far south as Jilib, near the Kenya border. Jilib and El Burr are more than 400 miles apart.

US forces have conducted a total of ten strikes in Somalia in 2018, all of which have targeted Shabaab, according to Nate Herring of AFRICOM Public Affairs. Unlike last year, the United States has yet to target the Islamic State group. Herring added that strikes against terrorist groups in Somalia aim “to degrade the groups’ 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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