U.S. Africa Command conducted three airstrikes targeting al-Shabab militants in Somalia Dec. 29 — taking out four militants, according to the command.
Two of the airstrikes were conducted in Qunyo Barrow, and the third was conducted in Caliyoow Barrow to target militants who had organized terrorist attacks and were working with al-Qaida.
In addition to the four casualties, the airstrikes also decimated two vehicles. AFRICOM said no civilians were injured or killed during the strikes, per the command’s current assessment.
“Since al-Shabaab’s first external attack in 2010, the group has ruthlessly killed hundreds,” Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, AFRICOM’s director of operations, said in a recent news release. “They have attacked and killed African partners, allies and fellow Americans. They are a global menace and their sights are set on exporting violence regionally and eventually attacking the U.S. homeland.”
The AFRICOM strikes come after a vehicle bomb killed more than 80 people in Mogadishu on Saturday.
Al-Shabab did not say it was behind the Saturday attack, but Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajor claimed the violent extremist group was the culprit, according to the Wall Street Journal. AFRICOM also pointed a finger at al-Shabab for conducting the attack.
AFRICOM spokesperson Air Force Col. Chris Karns told Military Times the three airstrikes were not a direct response to the vehicle bombing, but demonstrate a commitment to ensuring that violent extremist organizations do not dismantle the progress Africa, the U.S. and international partners have made to bring security to the region.
“Removing even one terrorist is a preventative measure and insurance that particular nefarious fighter will no longer do harm to innocent people who are working toward a better future,” Karns said.
These groups are aiming to target areas outside of Somalia, including the U.S., Karns warned.
“Threat on the African continent require constant vigilance,” he said. “Groups, such as al-Shabab, may not have the current capability, but they certainly have an intent to strike U.S. interests and the United States.”
As a result, he said, it’s in the best interest of the U.S. and African partners to continue to exert pressure on these violent extremist organizations.
A total of 63 airstrikes against violent extremist organizations have been conducted in Somalia this year, according to Karns. That’s up from the 47 conducted in 2018, and the 35 conducted in 2017.
AFRICOM estimates there are approximately 5,000 to 7,000 al-Shabab fighters in Somalia, and another 150 to 300 ISIS-Somalia militants there. Karns said al-Shabab maintains control of roughly 20 percent of the territory of Somalia.
Meanwhile, AFRICOM previously told Military Times in November that there are an average of 650 to 800 U.S. forces in Somalia at any point.