U.S. Africa Command killed Yusuf Jiis, who was described as “one of the foundational members” of Shabaab – al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa – in an airstrike on April 2.
AFRICOM has stepped up its air campaign against Shabaab in the first three-plus months of the year, already targeting the group 33 times in 2020 – more than half of 2019’s total.
Jiis was a “was a long-standing, high-ranking leader in the al-Shabaab terrorist organization,” AFRICOM said in a press release that announced his death today. Jiis was among three Shabaab members that were killed in an April 2 airstrike near the town of Bush Madina in Bay province. AFRICOM followed up the April 2 strike with another on April 3, also in Bush Madina, that killed five Shabaab operatives.
Jiis was described as “one of the foundational members” who “held many significant positions that facilitated al-Shabaab’s violent and harmful activities throughout East Africa.”
AFRCOM has significantly increased its targeting of Shabaab this year, particularly after the group attacked the Manda Bay Airfield in Kenya on Jan. 5. That early morning attack resulted in the death of an American soldier and two U.S. contractors, as well as the destruction of several aircraft. Shabaab also attacked a nearby base where U.S. troops were stationed.
Initially, AFRICOM claimed that U.S. and Somali forces “repelled” the assault and accused Shabaab of Shabaab of exaggerating the effects of its operation.
AFRICOM later admitted that Shabaab “achieved a degree of success in its attack.”
AFRICOM has launched 33 strikes against Shabaab since the Manda Bay assault, according to information compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. Exactly 21 of those strikes have taken place in the last six weeks since AFRICOM killed one of the operational commanders behind Manda Bay.
For comparison, in 2019, AFRICOM launched 51 airstrike over the course of 12 months.
The U.S. military has maintained that Shabaab remains both a regional and global threat.
“Al-Shabaab remains a disease in Somalia and is an indiscriminate killer of innocent people and their only desire is to brutalize populations inside Somalia and outside of Somalia,” said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, AFRICOM’s Director of Operations.
Shabaab is one of Al Qaeda’s most effective branches. Its fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the past decade, as it has weathered numerous offensives from an array of local, regional, and international actors, including the United States. It continues to plot against the West even as it wages a brutal insurgency that provides control of an estimated 25 percent of Somali’s territory.
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