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US stops sharing details of deaths and damage in Somalia airstrikes

By Jamie McIntyre , Washington Examiner

MOGADISHU, Somalia — For more than a year, the U.S. Africa Command has been issuing regular press releases after each U.S. airstrike in Somalia detailing now many strikes were conducted and how many al-Shabaab militants were believed to have been killed.

But in the latest release announcing two airstrikes targeting al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, on Jan. 23, 2019, no estimate of enemy dead included.

“We no longer discuss battle damage assessments resulting from our airstrikes,” said Maj. Karl Wiest, a spokesman for the U.S. Africa Command, in response to an inquiry from the Washington Examiner.

When pressed, Wiest said in a follow-up email that the U.S. assesses the Wednesday strikes killed one al-Shabaab militant.

“While enemy casualties are an expected outcome of strike operations, the resulting number of EKIA [Enemy Killed in Action] is much less important to understand than how these strikes are helping our Somali partners achieve their strategic security objectives,” Wiest added.

As recently as last week the U.S. touted the fact that a single airstrike killed 52 al-Shabaab fighters who had attacked Somali government soldiers who were being backed by U.S. troops.

That strike came four days after al-Shabaab attacked a hotel complex in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, killing 21 people plus five al-Shabaab members.

The war against al-Shabaab, an offshoot of al Qaeda, is being largely fought by Somali National Army forces and troops from the U.N. -authorized African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, backed by U.S. airpower and special operations forces.

So far in 2019, the U.S. says drone or manned aircraft have conducted eight strikes and killed 78 suspected terrorists, a faster pace than last year in which 41 strikes were said to have killed 323 al-Shabaab militants.

The U.S. Africa Command did not say what prompted the change in policy regarding withholding body counts, but it follows a general trend by the Pentagon not to release any information that could be of use to the enemy.

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