U.S. military personnel killed 27 Al-Shabab fighters in a lone airstrike in northwest Somalia on June 2, U.S. Africa Command announced on Monday, the single deadliest U.S. airstrike against militants in the country to date this year and yet another sign that the DoD's escalating air campaign there shows no signs of slowing down.
"This was the deadliest strike to date this year," AFRICOM spokesman Maj. Karl Wiest told Task & Purpose. "In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia we will continue to degrade the functional networks of ISIS in Somalia and [Al-Shabab] as these groups pose a direct threat to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region."
A rise in lethality: Two other airstrikes southwest of the Somali capital of Mogadishu took out 12 Al-Shabab fighters on May 31 and 10 on May 23, respectively, raising the total number of fighters killed to a reported 47 in just over a week. Based on public AFRICOM announcements, U.S. forces only took out a total of 10 Al-Shabab fighters in a trio of airstrikes between February 21 and April 5 of this year, the last major salvo before the end of May.
An escalating campaign... The strikes follow a ramp-up in U.S. military involvement in Somalia in the last year. In March, President Donald J. Trump relaxed restrictions on the rules of engagement, laying the groundwork for Secretary of Defense Mattis to announce the following May that the U.S. would send additional troops to the country as part of the Pentagon's usual advise-and-support mantra. By November, the U.S. has 500 service members in the country and had conducted a whopping 28 airstrikes in just a few months.
...but not without casualties: Mattis' May announcement came just one week after a Navy SEAL became the first U.S. service member killed in the country since the infamous 1993 Battle of Mogadishu during a raid on a remote Al-Shabab compound; in June, Al Shabab fighters killed 62 Somali soldiers (and beheaded several) during a vicious attack on a government compound.
It's worth noting that the same day that AFRICOM formally announced the June 2 strike, the New York Times reported that a "sweeping review" of U.S. special operations forces nationwide will likely end up reducing the number of personnel deployed in Africa, currently the area of operations that’s home to the most SOCOM personnel outside of the Middle East. If anything, that means that we'll see far more airstrikes in the coming months.
The first grenade core was accidentally discovered on Nov. 28, 2018, by Virginia Department of Historic Resources staff examining relics recovered from the Betsy, a British ship scuttled during the last major battle of the Revolutionary War. The grenade's iron jacket had dissolved, but its core of black powder remained potent. Within a month or so, more than two dozen were found. (Virginia Department of Historic Resources via The Virginian-Pilot)
In an uh-oh episode of historic proportions, hand grenades from the last major battle of the Revolutionary War recently and repeatedly scrambled bomb squads in Virginia's capital city.
Wait – they had hand grenades in the Revolutionary War? Indeed. Hollow iron balls, filled with black powder, outfitted with a fuse, then lit and thrown.
And more than two dozen have been sitting in cardboard boxes at the Department of Historic Resources, undetected for 30 years.
Jeremy Cuellar, left, and Kemia Hassel face life in prison if convicted of murdering Army Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III in Berrien County Dec. 31, 2018. (Courtesy of Berrien County Sheriff's Dept.)
BERRIEN COUNTY, MI -- The wife of an Army sergeant killed in December admitted that she planned his killing together with another man, communicating on Snapchat in an attempt to hide their communications, according to statements she made to police.
(From left to right) Chris Osman, Chris McKinley, Kent Kroeker, and Talon Burton
At least four American veterans were among a group of eight men arrested by police in Haiti earlier this week for driving without license plates and possessing an arsenal of weaponry and tactical gear.
Police in Port-au-Prince arrested five Americans, two Serbians, and one Haitian man at a police checkpoint on Sunday, according to The Miami-Herald. The men told police they were on a "government mission" but did not specify for which government, according to The Herald.
They also told police that "their boss was going to call their boss," implying that someone high in Haiti's government would vouch for them and secure their release, Herald reporter Jacqueline Charles told NPR.
What they were actually doing or who they were potentially working for remains unclear. A State Department spokesperson told Task & Purpose they were aware that Haitian police arrested a "group of individuals, including some U.S. citizens," but declined to answer whether the men were employed by or operating under contract with the U.S. government.
A photo shared by Hoda Muthana on her now-closed @ZumarulJannaTwitter account. (Twitter/ZumarulJannah)
The State Department announced Wednesday that notorious ISIS bride Hoda Muthana, a U.S.-born woman who left Alabama to join ISIS but began begging to return to the U.S. after recently deserting the terror group, is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return home.