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US airstrike kills 2 Al Qaeda-linked terrorists

MQ-9 Reaper during Exercise Northern Strike 2019. (Arizona Air National Guard/Released)
July 19, 2022

U.S. forces in Somalia killed two members of the Al Qaeda-affiliated group Al Shabaab near Libikus, Somalia on Monday.

In an emailed statement to American Military News, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said it conducted an airstrike on Al Shabaab fighters after they attacked partner forces of the Federal Government of Somalia in a remote area near Libikus.

“U.S. forces are authorized to conduct strikes in defense of designated partner forces,” said AFRICOM, the combatant command in charge of U.S. combat operations throughout the African continent.

“The command’s initial assessment is that two Al Shabaab terrorists were killed in action and that no civilians were injured or killed given the remote nature of where this engagement occurred,” AFRICOM added. “The Federal Government of Somalia and U.S. Africa Command take great measures to prevent civilian casualties. These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that Al Shabaab regularly conducts against the civilian population.”

According to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), Al Shabaab is the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts that took over most of southern Somalia in the latter half of 2006. Despite suffering a military defeat at the hands of Somali and Ethiopian forces in 2007, the group has carried on an insurgency throughout southern and central Somalia.

According to the NCTC, Al Shabaab is a decentralized and clan-based terrorist group that has seen some internal power struggles throughout its history. The NCTC assessed that while most Al Shabaab fighters are more interested in a nationalistic battle against the Federal Government of Somalia rather than a larger global jihad, the terrorist group’s senior leaders are affiliated with Al Qaeda. Both terrorist groups announced a merger in February 2012, however, the losses of senior Al Shabaab leaders may have hindered the group’s broader communication and coordination with Al Qaeda.

Al Shabaab has continued to carry out bombings, suicide attacks and assassinations. The terror group has also carried out attacks outside Somalia, such as the September 2013 Westgate mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, the May 2014 attack at a restaurant that is popular with Westerners in Djibouti and the April 2015 mass killings of university students in Garissa, Kenya.

“The Federal Government of Somalia and the U.S. remain committed to fighting al-Shabaab to prevent the deaths of innocent civilians,” AFRICOM said Monday. “Violent extremist organizations like al-Shabaab present long-term threats to Somali, regional and U.S. interests.”

AFRICOM carried out another strike that killed five Al Shabaab militants in June. The strike came just weeks after President Joe Biden ordered more U.S. troops into Somalia, reversing an outgoing order from President Donald Trump to withdraw the majority of U.S. troops from the country.