US airstrike targets al-Shabaab near Kismayo, covering Somali troops

AFRICOM said the strike killed 10 al-Shabaab militants

A U.S. airstrike killed 10 al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia on Thursday, April 9, in defense of Somali National Army troops on the ground, Africa Command said.

The strike came after suspected al-Shabaab militants “engaged” Somali National Army’s special Danab (Lighting) and Jubaland Security Force troops near Kobon, not far from the coastal city of Kismayo, AFRICOM said in a Friday release.

Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab has used Kobon to stage attacks on Somali National Army troops in the past, the U.S. military has said. Last year AFRICOM said a strike killed eight fighters near the town.

The U.S. also conducted a targeted strike on Friday, killing one al-Shabaab militant in the town of Jilib, AFRICOM said. Neither strike killed any civilians, the command claimed.

Friday’s was the latest in a series of targeted strikes on the town, which is controlled by al-Shabaab.

The U.S. Special Operations and African Union troops have been supporting Somali Federal Government forces in an effort to push al-Shabaab militants out of rural areas around the capital at Mogadishu.

The militants have killed hundreds of civilians in the capital and control swaths of Somalia’s rural south and have launched a number of deadly attacks in neighboring countries.

The U.S. began launching airstrikes against al-Shabaab in 2007. The SNA’s Danab forces began receiving training by American Special Operations Forces in recent years. Turkey and European Union countries also provide training to the Somali National Army.

AFRICOM has been criticized for lack of transparency on the matter of civilian casualties. In its thirteen-year existence, the command has only once admitted to accidentally killing civilians despite hundreds of local allegations in Somalia alone.

The command has said al-Shabaab uses inaccurate claims of civilian casualties for propaganda.

A U.S. airstrike killed a teenage girl and wounded two family members amid a series of airstrikes on Jilib in February. AFRICOM has said it is reviewing the claim, and that it will begin releasing quarterly civilian casualty reports later this month.

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