US airstrike kills dozens of Shabaab fighters day after Ethiopian forces ambushed

A photo released by Shabaab today allegedly shows its fighters near the Bar Sanguuni military base near Jilib.

A day after Shabaab ambushed Ethiopian forces in southern Somalia, a US airstrike reportedly killed 52 jihadists near the stronghold of Jilib. The bombing was conducted as Shabaab attacked a Somali military base.

“To support the Federal Government of Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade Al Shabaab, US forces conducted an airstrike targeting militants near Jilib, Middle Juba Region, Somalia,” US Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) statement reads. The US military further reported that it conducted the airstrike “in response to an attack by a large group of Al Shabaab militants against Somali National Army Forces.”

AFRICOM claims at least 52 Shabaab militants were killed. In addition, the Somali military says it was able to kill 25 more jihadists during the fight. Garowe Online reports that a suicide car bomb was intended to detonate near the base’s perimeter, but failed to explode.

However, details are hard to independently verify. Shabaab has released photos from the attack on the Somali military base near Bar Sanguuni, which is close to Jilib.

The photos appear to show the jihadists overrunning the base, capturing weapons and equipment before setting the base ablaze. The Shabaab statement of the operation, which was released via its Shahada News Telegram channel, claims the militants killed 42 Somali soldiers. Only a few alleged soldiers are shown to be dead within the base.

The Bar Sanguuni base is a joint US-Somali-Kenyan base. A US Special Forces soldier was killed at the same base last June. The facility was targeted a day later with a suicide truck bomb, but that assault was repulsed.

Shabaab attacked the same base again a month later, in July 2018, claiming its forces were able to briefly takeover it over. Subsequent photos released by the group appeared to confirm this claim.

Today’s strike on the Bar Sanguuni base came a day after Shabaab launched a ambushed Ethiopian troops near Baidoa in Somalia’s southwest. Dozens of Ethiopian troops were killed as they traveled between Baidoa and Burhakaba. In response, Ethiopia announced today that it is preparing a “massive offensive” on Shabaab in southern Somalia.

Following the deadly terrorist attack in Nairobi, Shabaab remains a potent threat to Somali and African Union troops inside Somalia.

Photos released by Shabaab reportedly showing its jihadists at the Bar Sanguuni military base:

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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