US carries out 3 drone strikes against extremists in Somalia
MOGADISHU – The Associated Press
U.S. forces say they have carried out three drone strikes within 24 hours in Somalia, stepping up their campaign against the Islamic extremist rebels of al-Shabab and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
The strikes by unmanned drones killed several extremist fighters, a spokeswoman for the U.S. military command in Africa told The Associated Press on Nov. 12. With these three attacks, the U.S. has now carried out 26 attacks in Somalia against extremist targets in 2017, she said.
The latest U.S. strikes were carried out in coordination with Somalia’s government, she said.
The first strike happened on Nov. 11 at approximately 4:30 p.m. local Somalia time and it killed one fighter for the extremists group, al-Shabab, said a U.S. Africa command statement. The strike occurred near Gaduud, about 250 miles southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, it said.
The U.S. strike came after al-Shabaab attacked a convoy of U.S. and Somali forces, it said.
“We assess no civilians were anywhere near the site,” said the spokeswoman. “We take all measures during the targeting process to painstakingly ensure that civilian casualties and collateral damages are avoided and that we comply with the principles of the Law of Armed Conflict.”
The second strike occurred on Nov. 12 at approximately 3 a.m. against al-Shabaab, in the Lower Shabelle region about 40 miles west of the capital Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab, the deadliest jihadist extremist group in Africa, has been blamed for the massive truck bombing in Mogadishu last month that killed more than 350 people. It was Somalia’s worst-ever attack and one of the world’s deadliest in years.
Al-Shabab has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida “and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks throughout the world,” said the spokeswoman, adding that al-Shabab “has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the U.S. and our partners in the region.”
The third strike was against the ISIL in Somalia’s northern Puntland area, she said. It happened at about 9 a.m. on Nov. 12. This is the second U.S. strike against the ISIL group in Somalia. The first was earlier this month. The ISIL has emerged in Somalia over the past two years and many of its fighters have defected from al-Shabab.
“U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats,” said the spokeswoman. The U.S. forces are working with Somalia’s security forces and the 22,000-strong African Union force of soldiers from neighboring countries and they are “targeting terrorists, their training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia, the region and around the world,” she said.