Washington: The Pentagon’s Africa Command said on Tuesday that it had carried out the deadliest attack against the extremist group Al Shabab in nearly a year, killing about 60 fighters in central Somalia.
The strike took place Friday in the vicinity of Harardhere, about 300 miles northeast of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, the military said in a statement. Africa Command officials offered no other details except to say it did not kill or injure any civilians, suggesting the militants were in a camp or massing for an attack.
The strike came after a recent spate of attacks that Al Shabab has conducted against Somali security forces and their US advisers across the country.
On September 21, Al Shabab fighters attacked US and Somalia troops 30 miles northwest of Kismayo. Ten days earlier, militants struck Somalia and US forces in Mubarak, in central Somalia, killing one Somali soldier.
“These sustained attacks demonstrate that [Al] Shabab retains the ability to launch conventional offensives, in addition to its terrorist attack capability,” said Bill Roggio, editor of FDD’s Long War Journal, a website run by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies that tracks military strikes against militant groups.
In its statement, the Africa Command said last week’s strike was the deadliest against Al Shabab since an air strike against an Al Shabab camp northwest of Mogadishu on November 21 killed about 100 militants.
So far this year in Somalia, the United States has conducted 27 strikes, including by drone attacks, mostly against small numbers of Al Shabab fighters. That is on pace to surpass last year’s attacks against the group.
The attacks by Al Shabab, Al Qaida’s affiliate in East Africa, underscore the resilience of regional arms of Al Qaida and Daesh in places like Yemen, Libya, West Africa and Afghanistan.
Last weekend marked the anniversary of Al Shabab’s deadliest attack, a truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed well over 500 people.
There are now roughly 500 US troops in Somalia; most of them are Special Operations forces, including Army Green Berets, Marine Raiders and Navy SEALs stationed at a small constellation of bases throughout the East African nation.
US military officials have expressed concern that the group is again growing — even after losing much of its territory in Somalia in recent years and being targeted by US drone strikes.