US military launches first airstrike in Somalia targeting ISIS militants
MOGADISHU, Somalia - For the first time since moving into Somalia, the US Africa Command carried an airstrike in the northeastern Somali federal state of Puntland, which targeted ISIS militants in the war-torn nation, killing several terrorists in the process during Tuesday's raid.
This is the first time the US army was carrying an operation against ISIS in Somalia, despite having coordinated similar attacks against Al-Qaida linked Al-Shabaab militants in the central and southern parts of the country, which has left hundreds of the terrorists dead according to statistics issued AFRICOM.
Tuesday's operation, which had been announced by local authorities in Puntland targeted remote area of Timirshe, located at least 140 kilometers southeast of Bosaso. The US military was assisted by Puntland Special Forces, who carried out ground combats against the militants.
"At this time, it is assessed this airstrike killed seven ISIS-Somalia terrorists," read the statement by AFRICOM. The command further added: "Currently, we assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes."
However, initial reports from the Puntland security team indicated that over 20 militants were killed during the operation which lasted for almost 48 hours. During the operation, Puntland said, two trucks and several explosives were seized by ground forces, with several other militants also surrendering to the security teams.
"We continue to apply pressure on terrorist groups and assist our Somali partners in disrupting their operations," said U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Miguel Castellanos, deputy director of operations, AFRICOM. "We continue our support to rid Somalia of the likes of ISIS and al-Shabaab."
According to the AFRICOM, when this airstrike occurred, U.S. forces were in the area in order to advise and assist Somali and partner forces. Terrorist groups continue to resort to the tradecraft of terror and propaganda in an effort to intimidate the local populace.
"Mistruths and lies are the terrorist weapons of choice," said Col. Chris Karns, director of public affairs, AFRICOM. "ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab have bankrupt narratives and visions of the future. Our partnership to unmask and degrade the capability of these terrorists is essential to security and stability in Somalia."
AFRICOM said that it's determined to support the Government of Somalia by strengthening its security forces and promoting regional security, stability, and prosperity. Concurrently, the statement read, the command is building enduring relationships and strategic alliances in East Africa to address looming challenges and malign activity by near-peer competitors.
The U.S continues to provide support to Somali efforts and counter violent extremist threats. The challenges in Africa will require African and international solutions. U.S. Africa Command remains committed to working with our African partners, it further said.
ISIS militants in Somalia are mainly concentrated in the northern mountains of Bari within Puntland but there have been reports that the terrorists are keen to invade Bossaso. Before the airstrike, Puntland security teams had intensified crackdown against the militants in the region, killing dozens in the process.
The ISIS-Somalia militants had reduced activities in the region following differences with rival Al-Shabaab group, which claims large swathes of rural southern and central Somalia. The two teams clashed between 2017 and 2018, further minimizing IS territories to northern Somalia.
Reports from the Puntland security forces indicate that a senior foreign fighter who has been coordinating IS activities in the region, was killed during the onslaught. However, the name and the nationality of the militant is yet to be revealed.
This was the 42nd US-engineered airstrike in Somalia this year and the highest number within the same period. In total, over 70 militants have been killed through airstrikes since January 2020, and this excludes those who died from ground combats mainly carried out by AMISOM, SNA, and regional security forces.