Drone strike kills Al-Shabaab operative, destroys checkpoint in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - For the first time in almost a month, the US Africa Command launched an airstrike against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, in an operation that dismembered a checkpoint normally used by the terrorist group in southern Somalia.
In a statement on Thursday, AFRICOM confirmed the operation, which was precisely 41st airstrike within this year in the Horn of Africa nation. The command last targeted the militants on May 17 within Lower Shebelle following the ongoing operations across the country.
The operation, AFRICOM said, left one militant dead besides destroying the checkpoint, which was reportedly used for the collection of forced revenue from civilians in form of Zakat. However, the identity of the victim had not been established yet by the US military.
Although such airstrikes have been questioned before by human rights groups, which claim that they usually target innocent people, the command, however, said: "We currently assesses no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike."
The checkpoints, US Africa Command added, often restrict movements of innocent people besides being used for extortion. Lower Shebelle is one of the severely affected regions in the ongoing operations, as security forces expand their command in regions that have been traditionally held by the militants.
“Al-Shabaab is using checkpoints to threaten, extort and restrict the movement of innocent people in Mogadishu and Lower Shabelle region,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, deputy director of operations, U.S. Africa Command. “Al-Shabaab’s actions continue to impede much needed economic development and progress.”
Of the 41 airstrikes since January, close to 60 militants have been killed based on statistics compiled from the press releases issued by AFRICOM on its official pages. Most of these operations have been targeting Lower and Middle Shebelle and Jubba regions of Somalia.
Among those who have been killed in the precision, strikes include Yusuf Jiis, who used to coordinate Al-Shabaab operations within Lower Shebelle. Also, Bashir Qorgab, the senior terrorist linked to the Manda Airfield attack in Kenya early this year, was killed in February within Saakow town.
There are close to 500 US troops in Somalia and are expected to leave by 2027. However, they are integral in training Special Forces commonly known as Danab within the Somali National Army besides giving aerial surveillance during sophisticated operations carried out by both AMISOM and SNA.
According to AFRICOM, stability in Somalia cannot be achieved through military actions only. Instead, it added, partners, will continue to provide economical solutions to citizens of the country, which is ranked amongst the poorest in the world.
"U.S. Africa Command and our international partners recognize that stability in Somalia will not be achieved through purely military means. It requires providing programs and opportunities for the Somali people," read the statement.
Together and at the request of the Federal Government of Somalia, the Command added, it works to improve security conditions in Somalia in order to enhance governance and economic development. U.S. partnership with Somalia also helps prevent al-Shabaab's ambitions to expand its reach, plot attacks, and further export violence.
Further, the U.S. Africa Command added, it will continue to work with its Somali partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia to the Federal Government of Somalia and its Member States, which have been in persistent wrangles.
The FGS is struggling to stamp its authority with just six months to the much-anticipated polls. Al-Shabaab counties to wreak havoc across the country despite the fact that joint military operations have significantly degraded them.