The US military killed four Shabaab terrorists in an airstrike 74 miles northwest of Mogadishu yesterday. This is the first strike that the U.S. Forces Africa Command (AFRICOM) has publicly announced in two months.
“We currently assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike,” according to the AFRICOM press release that announced the operation.
AFRICOM also noted that Shabaab, which is al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, continues to maintain both “training camps” and “safe havens throughout Somalia and the region.”
The US military has launched 19 strikes against Shabaab in 2018, Major Karl J. Wiest of AFRICOM Media Relations said in an email to FDD’s Long War Journal. The military is on pace to match or exceed last year’s strike total of 31, a record high in the decade-long air campaign that has primarily focused on Shabaab and its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union.
The targets of this year’s strikes include “al-Shabaab militants, fighting positions, infrastructure, and equipment,” Wiest said over email. “U.S. forces in cooperation with the government of Somalia, are conducting ongoing counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia to degrade the groups’ ability to recruit, train, and plot terror attacks in Somalia and the region.”
While the airstrikes have killed some of Shabaab’s top leaders and targeted its infrastructure, they have not had an appreciable effect on the group.
Shabaab retains a potent insurgency despite US airstrikes 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 several cities and towns in southern Somalia. Shabaab also controls large rural areas and some towns in southern and central Somalia.
Shabaab recently overran a joint Somali-Kenyan base and claims to have overrun two towns in the south.