A U.S. airstrike near Mogadishu earlier this month killed a top al-Shabaab leader, Africa Command said on Tuesday.
An assessment of the April 2 airstrike in vicinity of Bush Madina killed Yusuf Jiis, “one of the foundational members of the terrorist group and held many significant positions that facilitated al-Shabaab’s violent and harmful activities throughout East Africa,” AFRICOM said on April 7.
Two other militants were killed in the strike but their names were not released.
Bush Madina is in the Bay Region, approximately 217 km (135 miles) west of Mogadishu.
Yusuf Jiis “was a key leader in the al-Shabaab organization,” said AFRICOM Commander General Stephen Townsend. “He was violent, ruthless, and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives. His removal makes Somalia and neighboring countries safer.”
The U.S. military has increased its targeted strikes against al-Shabaab since 2014, part of a campaign to beat back the militant organization and prop up forces of Somalia’s federal government, which is based in Mogadishu.
U.S. Special Operations Forces and Turkish troops are training Somali National Army forces under the federal government.
The African Union has contributed some 20,000 troops to the fight under the banner of a peacekeeping mission known as AMISOM, or African Union Mission in Somalia.
Al-Shabaab, an Islamist movement with close ties to al-Qaeda, has sought to overthrow the Somali government for more than a decade. AMISOM drove the militants from Mogadishu in 2011, but al-Shabaab still launches deadly attacks on civilians and security personnel in the capital and control swaths of Somalia’s rural south.
So far SNA forces have had little success securing rural territories outside the capital.
Townsend has defended the campaign’s slow progress against criticism, saying he does not consider the mission to be a case of “whack-a-mole.”
The command has also been accused of obfuscating its civilian casualties assessment process. AFRICOM has admitted responsibility for one incident of civilian casualties in 13 years of airstrikes on the continent.
Promising transparency, US Africa Command to begin reporting civilian casualty claims