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Al-Shabaab displays crashed drone near US military base in Somalia

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants have for the first time released photos purportedly of a US drone that crashed in their stronghold while on a surveillance mission, sending a stern warning to the military on the operations being carried against them in the country.

For several months now, soldiers attached to the Somali National Army [SNA], the African Union Mission troops, and the US Africa Command, have been waging operations against the militants especially in Shebelle and Jubba regions, which are considered as strongholds of the militants.

In a statement published on their affiliate media outlets, the militants announced that the drone crashed after being brought down by the group in Balligodle, at least 90 KM Southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu. The Al-Qaida linked group did not mention the exact date of the incident.

The photos published by the militants showed photos of the drone which was badly dismembered but there was no proof that it belonged to the US military, which is fond of using the drones when doing due diligence in form of surveillance before waging any attack against the militants.

Drones, besides being used for attacks, are synonymous with surveillance missions. The photos were released amid claims that the US military has been targeting innocent civilians in their unending frequent attacks which are aimed at degrading Al-Shabaab militants.

Balligodle airport hosts the US military in Somalia and is located in the Lower Shabelle region, a region believed to be a stronghold for the militants. The US army trains Special Forces dubbed Danab in Somalia, who participate in deadly search and rescue missions in the war-torn nation.

Last year, the militants targeted the base but the attack was repulsed by vigilant SNA troops manning the base, leaving 11 militants dead. Footage of Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Omar Diriye which was released by the militants, had him condemning the US army, adding that they're keen to destroy the base.

The US has close to 500 servicemen in Somalia who are mainly involved in training and equipping SNA troops. Almost a fortnight ago, the militants attacked a US outpost at Janay Abdalla in Lower Jubba leaving two SNA officers dead and a US serviceman critically wounded.

Since January, the US military has launched a record 46 airstrikes in Somalia, leaving close to 70 militants dead. In a report released by the US Africa Command, the team also admitted killing at least two civilians as collateral and promised to compensate the families.

Some of the militants who have been killed by the US military include Bashir Qorgab, the man behind the US Naval Base attack in Kenya early this year. Others are Yusuf Jiis, a notorious operative in Lower Shebelle and Abdulkadir Commandos who was killed a fortnight ago.

The US military has also made a special request to the Department of Defense for permission to carry airstrikes in northeastern Kenya and the coastal strip of the East Africa nation. The two regions have been targeted by the militants for almost a decade now.

Al-Shabaab is fighting to topple the fragile UN-backed Somalia government, but their efforts are yet to bear fruits. The UN believes that the group has close to 7,000 active fighters but it remains badly exposed after thousands defected due to unending internal wrangles.