U.S. forces carried out three drone strikes within 24 hours in Somalia, the Associated Press quoted a military spokesperson as saying, increasing the intensity of their campaign against al-Qaeda and Islamic State affiliates in the country.
The spokesperson said all three were drone strikes, AP reported.
The strikes killed several fighters, a spokeswoman for U.S. Africa Command told AP on Sunday, November 12, adding that the U.S. has now carried out 26 strikes in Somalia in 2017.
U.S. strikes in Somalia have significantly increased in number since June, after the Trump administration loosened restrictions on the use of force in March. A previously reported November 9 strike against al-Shabaab killed “several militants” about 100 miles west of Mogadishu, Africom said.
Saturday strike against al-Shabaab
The first strike was carried out against al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab on November 11 at approximately 4:30 p.m. near Gaduud, about 250 miles from Mogadishu, an Africom statement said.
“U.S. forces observed the al-Shabaab combatant participating in attacks on a U.S. and Somali convoy,” the statement said, and a strike was subsequently conducted, killing one person.
The spokesperson told AP that Africom assessed “no civilians were anywhere near the site.”
UPDATE3: US military spokesman now says airstrike in Somalia Saturday was from a fixed-wing jet “in the region” and not a drone
— Lucas Tomlinson (@LucasFoxNews) November 12, 2017
Pre-dawn strike against al-Shabaab
The second strike was conducted at around 3 a.m. on November 12 in the Lower Shabelle region about 40 miles west of Mogadishu, the spokesperson said.
AP published no further details on the strike.
Sunday morning strike against ISIS affiliate
The third strike was carried out at around 9 a.m. on Sunday against Abnaa ul-Calipha, the Islamic State affiliate in Somalia’s northern Puntland area.
This is only the third U.S. strike against Abnaa ul-Calipha. The first two airstrikes were carried out on November 3 and killed “several” members of Islamic State, Africom said.
African Union forces withdraw
Somalia’s president has vowed a “state of war” against extremists in the country but there are mounting concerns that when the African Union AMISOM force leaves Somalia, the national army will be unable to cope. AMISOM announced the beginning of its withdrawal on November 1 and has said 1,000 troops will leave by the end of the year, with a complete withdrawal of the 22,000 troops in Somalia by the end of 2020.
U.S. forces are working with both Somalia’s security forces and the AMISOM force.
“U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats,” the Africom spokesperson said, adding that they are “targeting terrorists, their training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia, the region and around the world.”