Sun, 21 Apr 2019

U.S. Military targets Al Shabaab in Somalia, over 62 militants killed

By Sheetal Sukhija, Honduras News
18 Dec 2018, 14:24 GMT+10

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The U.S. Military broke its previous record of the number of airstrikes conducted in Somalia targeting the extremist group Al Shabaab in a single year.

On Monday, the U.S. Military said that it carried out six airstrikes over two days targeting Al Shabaab near the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

It said that the airstrikes over the weekend managed to kill 62 militants and confirmed that there were no collateral civilian casualties.

The U.S. Military's Africa Command said in a statement, "All six airstrikes were conducted to prevent Al Shabaab from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks."

It said that the airstrikes were carried out in close coordination with Somalia's government and targeted militants in the Gandarshe area of Somalia.

According to the statement, four airstrikes were conducted on December 15, which killed 34 people, while two more airstrikes were conducted on December 16, in which 28 more militants were killed.

The statement said that the airstrikes were "conducted to prevent Al Shabaab from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks."

There are currently 500 U.S. troops in Somalia, with a majority of them being Special Operations forces, including Green Berets, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs.

While the troops deployed at several bases across Somalia are involved in ground operations against the militant group, they have also been engaged in training Somali forces.

The six airstrikes conducted over the weekend took the total number of U.S. strikes against Al Shabaab in Somalia to 46 this year - higher that the 31 airstrikes conducted last year.

Under the Donald Trump administration, the U.S. Military's rules of engagement have been loosened over the last two years.

The U.S. Military has received permission to launch preemptive strikes on militants under the new rules and the number of airstrikes conducted against terrorist organizations have increased during the period.

So far this year, U.S. airstrikes have killed over 300 Al Shabaab fighters.

In October, airstrikes by the U.S. killed 60 Al Shabbab militants, while 100 members of the extremist organization were killed in a November 2017 airstrike.

Meanwhile, Al Shabaab too has ramped up the scale of its operations, carrying out several suicide bombings - most targeting the capital city of Mogadishu.

In October 2017, the group carried out a massive truck bombing that killed at least 587 people and left several others injured.

Somalia has witnessed lawlessness and violence since 1991, when dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.

Al Shabaab began an insurgency in Somalia a decade ago and regularly orchestrates acts of terrorism throughout the country and particularly in the city of Mogadishu.

It was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011 by Somali troops backed by African Union soldiers.

The Islamist group, which was ranked as the deadliest Islamist extremist group in Africa in 2016, is fighting to dislodge a Western-backed central government protected by the African Union-mandated peace-keeping force AMISOM, which defends it.

Attacks by the Al Qaeda-linked militant group has killed hundreds of civilians across East Africa and thousands of Somalis so far.

The group has been battling to topple thecentral government and impose its rule, based on its own strictinterpretation of Islam's sharia law.

The extremist group recently stepped up their assault against the government and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) bases across south and central parts of the Horn of Africa nation.

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