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US airstrike kills senior ISIS Somalia official Abdulhakim Dhuqub, Africom says

U.S. Africa Command said on Monday, April 15 that it carried out an airstrike against the Islamic State affiliate in northeastern Somalia, killing a senior official identified as Abdulhakim Dhuqub.

“As second in command of ISIS-Somalia, Dhuqub was responsible for the daily operations of the extremist group, attack planning, and resource procurement,” Africom said in a statement confirming the Sunday, April 14 strike in the vicinity of Xiriiro in Somalia’s Bari Region.

“At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed only Dhuqub and destroyed one vehicle,” the command added.

The airstrike hit a vehicle in which Dhuqub, also known as Abdihakim Mohamed Ibrahim, was traveling, Voice of America reported on Sunday, placing the strike between the villages of Hol Anod and Hiriro.

A second man with Dhuqub was killed but has not been identified, VOA reported Puntland region security minister Abdisamad Mohamed Gallan as saying.

It is the latest in a handful of U.S. airstrikes against Abnaa ul-Calipha. Formed in October 2015, Abnaa ul-Calipha was recognized by ISIS central as an official wilayat, or province, in December 2017 and it was named Islamic State Somalia province.

The group operates in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia and is estimated to have around 300 active fighters. Abnaa ul-Calipha is a splinter group from al-Shabaab, and the latter has ordered the killing of defectors. U.S. Africa Command began carrying out airstrikes against the group in November 2017.

In the statement Monday, Africom said it assessed that no civilians were killed or injured as the result of the airstrike, following an admission on April 5 that it had inadvertently killed civilians in an aerial raid against al-Shabaab last year.

“We continue to work with our Somali partners to keep pressure on the al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia terror networks,” U.S. Africa Command director of operations Major General Gregg Olson said.

“When it supports the strategy, we use precision airstrikes to target those who plan and carry out the violent extremist activities that put Somalis at risk.”

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.

American strikes in Somalia surged in April 2017 after President Donald Trump declared southern Somalia an “area of active hostilities,” the rights group Amnesty International said last month.

Africom has carried out 29 airstrikes in Somalia in 2019, compared to 47 in 2018 and 35 in 2017.

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