US military targets Al-Shabaab militants behind attack on AU base in Somalia

The US military has conducted at least 25 air strikes in Somalia this year [Isaac Brekken/Getty]

MOGADISHU, Somalia - The US Africa Command activated a series of airstrikes in southern Somalia, with the main focus being outside the vicinity of Bulo Marer, a town where Al-Shabaab militants initiated dawn attacks mainly targeting the Uganda People's Defense Forces [UPDF] serving in the peacekeeping mission.

In a statement, the US Army said the airstrike was in support of the "federal and African Union Transition Mission troops" who were in an operation against Al-Shabaab. The ground troops from ATMIS and the Somali army have been pursuing militants who waged an assault against the Ugandan contingent.

"The strike destroyed weapons and equipment unlawfully taken by al Shabaab fighters," the statement revealed, adding that "the command’s initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed". This was the second airstrike against the Al-Shabaab in seven days by the US army.

Last week, the command targeted Al-Shabaab headquarters in Jilib town, seriously injuring Osman Mohamed Abdi alias Moallim Osman, the group's commander for external operations. Moalim, who was declared "unconscious", is usually the person who organizes raids against foreign troops and outside the country.

U.S. Africa Command takes great measures to prevent civilian casualties. Protecting civilians remains a vital part of the command’s operations to promote a more secure and stable Africa, the command added in the statement which was published on Saturday.

Uganda has dispatched Lt. General Mayanga Muhanga, the Land Forces Commander to Somalia to assess the level of damage by Al-Shabaab. Initial reports show the militants targeted Uganda Battle Group 38 which reported to Somalia last month for ATMIS duties in Bulo Marer.

While ATMIS is yet to disclose the number of casualties, several military sources place it between 50 and 137 as claimed by Al-Shabaab militants. Several other soldiers were taken into captivity, sources further said. Al-Shabaab published photos of purported UPDF soldiers being held captive.

On Saturday, the federal government of Somalia condemned Friday's “heinous and cowardly” al-Shabaab attack on Ugandan forces in Bulo Marer. The government sent condolences to the people and leadership of Uganda while appreciating the role in a peacekeeping mission.


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