The US military said on Monday, December 17 that 62 militants from the jihadist al-Shabaab movement were killed in six weekend airstrikes in Somalia.
Four strikes on Saturday to support “Somalia’s continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab” killed 34 militants and another two on Sunday killed 28, the U.S. military’s Africa Command said in a statement.
The six airstrikes were “conducted in close coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia and targeted a known al-Shabaab encampment,” the Africom statement added.
“At this time we assess these airstrikes did not injure or kill any civilians,” Africom said.
The strikes, in the vicinity of Gandarshe, a coastal town around 48 km (30 miles) southwest south of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, were the deadliest in the country since November 2017 when the U.S. said it had killed more than 100 militants in a strike on an al-Shabaab camp.
They were conducted with America’s “Somali partners to prevent terrorists from using remote areas as safe havens to plot, direct, inspire and recruit for future attacks,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said, noting that no civilians had been killed or injured.
“The strike has neutralized an imminent attack” on a military base in the Lower Shabelle region, a Somali intelligence official told The Associated Press, adding that a camp and vehicles were hit.
The action brings to 45 the number of strikes the Pentagon has conducted against al-Shabaab in 2018, Manning said.
Last year, the figure was 35. Manning attributed the increase to operations becoming more “efficient.”
“We’re getting better. And because we’re getting better we’re able to … find, fix and eliminate those terrorist organizations,” Manning said.
On October 12, Africom said a large airstrike killed approximately 60 al-Shabaab militants in the vicinity of Harardere in eastern Somalia.
Since then, the U.S. has conducted 17 strikes targeting al-Shabaab including those conducted at the weekend, according to Africom releases. They include both planned and self-defense airstrikes in support of U.S. and partner forces.
The surge in U.S. operations in Somalia came after President Donald Trump in March 2017 loosened the constraints on the U.S. military to take actions against alleged terrorists when they judge it is needed, without seeking specific White House approval.
Al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Mogadishu, but has also carried out attacks in neighboring Kenya, which has deployed troops as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
U.S. forces partner with Somali national security forces in counterterrorism operations, and have conducted frequent raids and drone strikes on al-Shabaab training camps throughout Somalia. Africom also works with AMISOM on both advise-and-assist missions as well as air support missions to target al-Shabaab.
In August, the Pentagon assessed there to be between 3,000 and 7,000 al-Shabaab fighters and 70 to 250 Islamic State Somalia fighters in the Horn of Africa nation.
With reporting from AFP