US military strikes Shabaab “encampment,” killing scores of fighters

The US military killed more than 60 Shabaab fighters during six airstrikes that targeted “a known al-Shabaab encampment” in southern Somalia over the weekend. The strikes took place in an area where Shabaab is known to have sheltered foreign terrorists in the past.

US Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched four attacks against the Shabaab camp near the town of Gandarshe on Dec. 15, and two more on Dec. 16. A total of 62 Shabaab fighters were killed during the two days, while no civilians were killed, AFRICOM stated. The strikes were launched to “prevent terrorists from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks,” AFRICOM noted.

Gandarshe is located on the coast 15 miles south of Mogadishu and just north of Merca. In the past, this area has hosted foreign al Qaeda fighters and leaders. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, AFRICOM hits Shabaab near Somali capital.]

The US military has now struck Shabaab 45 times in 2018. Last year, the US targeted Shabaab 31 times, and the Islamic State’s nascent branch only four times.

The targeting of Shabaab increased at the end of March 2017, after the Trump administration loosened the restrictions on the US military to use force against Shabaab. At the time, the Department of Defense noted that Shabaab has become more lethal and dangerous. 

AFRICOM has repeatedly explained its reasoning for hitting Shabaab. In its latest press release on last weekend’s airstrikes, AFRICOM noted that the US and the Somali governments are “committed to preventing al-Shabaab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia. In particular, the group uses portions of southern and central Somalia to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists.”

Shabaab, which is al Qaeda’s official branch in East Africa, has battled Somali and African Union forces for well over a decade. It controls large rural areas of southern and central Somalia, and has waged a deadly insurgency that has stymied the international community for years.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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