Yesterday, Shabaab fighters attacked a Somali-led operation near Araara, Somalia, according to a US Forces Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release today. US service personnel were not present on the ground, but the US military did conduct self-defense airstrikes after the Somali force came under small arms fire. The airstrike killed four Shabaab terrorists and did not injure or kill any civilians.
This is the third time in the past month that US forces have conducted defensive airstrikes following Shabaab attacks. On Sept. 21, al Qaeda’s Somalia branch attacked US and Somali forces 50 kilometers northwest of Kismayo. On Sept. 11, Shabaab attacked US and Somail forces in Mubaraak, killing one partner force member.
These sustained attacks demonstrate that Shabaab retains the ability to launch conventional offensives, in addition to its terrorist attack capability.
AFRICOM continues to launch airstrikes in an attempt to disrupt Shabaab and its safe havens. Earlier this week, US forces targeted Shabaab near Haradere, Somalia. At the time of the release, AFRICOM was still investigating the exact results, which should include the number of militants killed and an assessment of civilian casualties. The week prior, AFRICOM conducted a strike near Kunyo Barrow killing one Shabaab terrorist.
The United States has conducted 27 strikes against Shabaab in 2018, AFRICOM’s Maj. Karl Wiest confirmed to FDD’s Long War Journal over email. AFRICOM is set to eclipse last year’s total of 31 strikes.
Despite the uptick in US air operations against Shabaab, the military continually describes Shabaab as a direct threat to the US and its allies.
The US State Department has also noted that Shabaab is a persistent threat. Its most recent report on terrorism described Somali as a “terrorist safe haven.” The report explained that “… al-Shabaab experienced significant military pressure during 2017, but the group still maintained control over large portions of the country. Al-Shabaab retained the ability to carry out high-profile attacks using vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), suicide bombings, mortars, and small arms.”