US military launches second Somalia airstrike within a week

Airstrikes in Somalia continue.
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FILE: Islamist fighters loyal to Somalias al-Qaida inspired al-Shabab group perform military drills at a village in Lower Shabelle region, some 25 kilometers outside Mogadishu on February 17, 2011.(Mustafa Abdi/AFP via Getty Images) Islamist fighters loyal to Somalia's al-Qaida-inspired al-Shabab group perform military drills at a village in Lower Shabelle region, some 25 kilometers outside Mogadishu on February 17, 2011. (Mustafa Abdi/AFP via Getty Images).

U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, has launched its second airstrike in Somalia in six days against al-Shabab, a terrorist group that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida. 

These strikes have occurred as al-Shabab may be taking advantage of a lull in the Somali government’s offensive against the group to reassert its presence in parts of the country.

On June 1, the U.S. military launched an airstrike near Wayanta, Somalia, in support of the Somali National Army, an AFRICOM news release says.

Three al-Shabab fighters are believed to have been killed by the airstrike, according to AFRICOM. An initial assessment determined that the strike did not kill or injure any civilians.

Somali troops were in a battle with al-Shabab fighters at the time of the airstrike, said AFRICOM spokeswoman Kelly Cahalan. No U.S. service members were in the area of the strike.

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Due to operational security concerns, AFRICOM does not publicize which type of U.S. military aircraft are involved in airstrikes or what ordnance is used for such missions, Cahalan said.

FILE: Al-shabab recruits walk down a street on March 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of Somalian capital, Mogadishu, following their graduation. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP via Getty Images)

The most recent Somalia airstrike comes shortly after AFRICOM carried out a strike on May 26 near an African Union base which came under attack by roughly 800 al-Shabab fighters.

The May 26 airstrike “destroyed weapons and equipment unlawfully taken by al Shabaab fighters,” according to an AFRICOM news release, which did not mention the attack against the base in Buulo Mareer, about 80 miles southwest of Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu.

Photos released by al-Shabab indicate that more than a dozen Ugandan soldiers serving with the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia were killed in the massive attack on their base, which was briefly overrun, according to Caleb Weiss, an expert on jihadism in Africa.

“Other pictures show complete destruction of the base, including tanks, armored vehicles, reinforced positions, and other areas of the base,” Weiss wrote in a May 27 story about the attack for the Long War Journal, which is produced by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies think tank in Washington, D.C.

So far this year, the U.S. military has launched nine airstrikes in Somalia and conducted a special operations raid in January that killed ISIS leader Bilal-al-Sudani, said Weiss, a senior analyst with the Bridgeway Foundation, a nonprofit organization that seeks to end genocide.

FILE: Security officers patrol near the destroyed Hayat Hotel after a deadly 30-hour siege by Al-Shabaab jihadists in Mogadishu on August 21, 2022. – (Photo by Hasan Ali Elmi/AFP via Getty Images)

One of the U.S. airstrikes this year targeted Moallim Osman, al-Shabab’s head of external operations, who was injured in the May 20 strike, Voice of America reported last month.

U.S. troops have been supporting Somali forces in the fight against al-Shabab since 2007, and last September the Somali government launched an offensive against the terrorist group that initially cleared al-Shabab fighters out of parts of central Somalia.

However, the May 26 attack on Ugandan troops in Buulo Mareer shows that al-Shabab has been able to regroup as the Somali government’s offensive has waned, Weiss told Task & Purpose.

Somalia has repeatedly delayed the second phase of its offensive operations, which is intended to assist local forces fight al-Shabab in two of Somalia’s southern states, Weiss said.

“So far, it just hasn’t happened, and that delay has really slowed down the tempo of these operations overall,” Weiss said. “I think al-Shabab realizes that and they’re taking the opportunity to really reconsolidate. That’s why you’re seeing these giant attacks. The attack on the Ugandan base was like 800 fighters, which is an absurd amount to group when you’re ostensibly facing these major counter offensives against you.”

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