US strikes target al Qaeda in Libya, Somalia

The US military hit al Qaeda’s branches in Somalia and Libya twice over the past several days, killing 20 fighters in strikes that appear to have targeted the groups’ military capacity.

In Libya, the US killed 11 members of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and destroyed three vehicles in “a precision airstrike near Al Uwaynat” on Nov. 29, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a press release. That strike is the third against AQIM so far this year.

On June 13, one AQIM fighter was killed in an attack south of Bani Walid. And on March 24, AFRICOM killed Musa Abu Dawud, a high-ranking al Qaeda leader in Libya who was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist, in Ubari. Dawud’s experience in waging jihad spanned three decades; He rose in the ranks of Algeria’s jihadist movement and became a “senior leader” in the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), which merged with al Qaeda in 2007 and renamed itself al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. [See LWJ report, American forces kill senior al Qaeda leader in Libya.]

AFRICOM said that the Nov. 29 strike was carried out “in coordination with the Libyan Government of National Accord” and the US “will not relent in its mission to degrade, disrupt, and destroy terrorist organizations and bring stability to the region. We are committed to maintaining pressure on the terror network and preventing terrorists from establishing safe haven.”

The US military has launched six strikes against jihadist groups operating in Libya so far this year, evenly targeting al Qaeda and the Islamic State with three strikes apiece.

In Somalia, AFRICOM reported that nine Shabaab fighters were killed during an operation in near Lebede on Nov. 30. AFRICOM confirmed that Lebede is located in Bay province, but they did not provide a precise location. The strike may have been conducted in support of Somali forces in the area, since Shabaab claimed to overrun the town of Gufgudud (Goof Gaduud) in Bay on the same day.

The strike in Bay province is the first outside of Mudug province since October. The US military has focused on Shabaab’s network in Mudug since the beginning of November. Some 53 Shabaab fighters have been killed in seven strikes in Mudug since Nov. 3.

The US military has relied on counterterrorism strikes to keep al Qaeda’s networks at bay in Somalia, Libya, and Yemen. While these operations have killed senior operatives and low level fighters, it has failed to deal a decisive blow to the group’s insurgencies which have been highly effective at replacing its leadership and rank and file over time.

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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