Six U.S. military airstrikes carried out over a two-day period killed 62 al-Shabaab militants in a town along the Somali coast just west of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, U.S. Africa Command announced in a statement on Monday.
The U.S. carried out four of the airstrikes on Dec. 15 killing 34 militants and the other two airstrikes on Dec. 16 killing 28 militants, according to the statement. U.S. Africa Command also announced that it has not assessed so far that the airstrikes killed or injured in civilians in the strike.
The airstrikes were carries out near the coastal town of Gandarshe.
U.S. Africa Command said in its statement that it carried out the airstrikes “in close coordination” with the Somalian government.
“All six (6) airstrikes were conducted in close coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia and targeted a known al-Shabaab encampment,” the statement says.
“U.S. Africa Command and our Somali partners conducted these airstrikes to prevent terrorists from using remote areas as a safe haven to plot, direct, inspire, and recruit for future attacks,” the statement added.
The Islamic terrorist group al Shabaab once controlled the majority of Somalia until about 2011 when they were driven out of Mogadishu and the majority of Somali cities and towns. They still have control of rural areas in the central and southern regions of Somalia.
Despite losing ground since 2011, al Shabaab, who is aligned with al Qaeda, has continued to carry out gun and bomb attacks on the local populace.
“In particular, the group uses portions of southern and central Somalia to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists,” U.S. Africa Command said in its statement released Monday.
Al Shabaab’s goal is to gain control of the Horn of Africa region by toppling local governments and instill strict Sharia Law in the region.
The U.S. has mostly Special Operations Forces operating in Somalia in support of the local security forces to defeat al Shabaab and other Islamic militant organizations operating in the region. The forces on the ground continually call in airstrikes on known al Shabaan locations in support of those efforts.
“U.S. Africa Command will continue to work with its partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) to the Federal Government of Somalia and its Member States, and U.S. forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to protect the Somali people, including partnered military counter-terror operations with the Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM and Somali National Army forces,” U.S. Africa Command said in its statement.
Shortly after President Donald Trump was inaugurated in January 2017, he signed an executive order giving commanders on the ground more authority to call in airstrikes and conduct other operations. Since then, the U.S. has drastically ramped up airstrikes in Somalia.