US military launches first airstrike against Al-Shabaab in Somalia during Ramadan
MOGADISHU, Somalia - For the first time since the commencement of Ramadan, the Holy month among the Muslims worldwide, the US Africa Command launched a drone strike in coordination with the federal government of Somalia, within the vicinity of Kunyo Barrow.
The May 17 airstrike also comes barely a month after the US Africa Command launched its first-ever quarterly report on civilian casualties, after a series of accusations by human rights groups on alleged deaths of innocent people from the American drone strikes.
In a statement issued by the command on Monday, two Al-Shabaab militants were killed instantly, adding that "the Command currently assesses no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike".
In the quarterly report, the Command admitted "erroneously" killing two civilians; one at Kunyo Barrow and another one in Jilib, the headquarters for the Al-Qaida linked group, even though the Amnesty International insisted that "the figure is higher than what they're giving us".
U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations, U.S. Africa Command, who is part of the management team, said: “The U.S. support to our Somali partners is and will remain strong."
The federal government of Somalia has previously supported such airstrikes, insisting that they help "significantly" in weeding out the Al-Shabaab militants, who still control large swathes of rural areas of central and southern Somalia.
With a personnel of close to 600 troops, the US Africa Command recently expressed a desire to continue staying in Somalia until 2022. In the statement, the command condemned Al-Shabaab activities in Somalia which mainly target innocent civilians.
“U.S. Africa Command affords our partners over-watch and added precision capabilities,” said Col. Christopher Karns, director of public affairs, U.S. Africa Command. “This enemy has no regard for the lives of innocent Somalis and the group presents a threat to the Somali people, the U.S., and interests abroad.”
The airstrike was actually the 40th this year, the highest record since Washington started carrying out air raids in the Horn of Africa nation, which has struggled with violent extremism for the last decade, despite a concerted effort by international partners to tame the militants.
In total, records tallied from the press releases issued by the US Africa Command indicate that close to 60 militants have died from airstrikes since January. This, however, does not include fatalities from the ground combats spearheaded by AMISOM and SNA forces.
Of significance is the death of two terrorists who were among those in the record of the Department of Defense for executing innocent people in Somalia. Yusuf Jiis, a top commander, was killed within Bush Madina in April.
For Bashir Qorgab, a notorious commander, his life was terminated in February within the outskirts of Saakow town. He was linked to Al-Shabaab raid which targeted the US military in January at Manda Airfield in Lamu, Kenya, which left three Americans dead.
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, the command added in the statement.
Despite the fact that Somalia is celebrating Ramadhan and dealing with Coronavirus pandemic, Al-Shabaab has continued to unleash on civilians with impunity. The latest attack from the Al-Qaida linked group left five people dead among them Mudug Governor Muse Nur who died in Galkayo town, within Puntland on Sunday.
U.S. Africa Command continues 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, added the statement from the US military.