US says it killed scores of al-Shabab fighters in central Somalia air strike
The United States military said on Wednesday (21 September) it had killed 27 fighters from the al-Shabab militant group in an air strike in Somalia’s central Hiran region, where the army and allied forces have launched an offensive against the insurgents in the last month.
According to the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) statement, US forces carried out an air strike against al-Shabab fighters who were attacking Somali military forces near the town of Buulobarde on 18 September. AFRICOM said no civilians were injured in what was “the largest combined Somali and [African Union Transition Mission in Somalia, ATMIS] offensive operation in five years”. The US has been carrying out airstrikes in Somalia against al-Shabab, an armed group linked to al-Qaeda, for years. The AFRICOM also stressed that Sunday’s strike in Buulobarde, about 200km north of the capital, Mogadishu, was the sixth recorded so far this year.
There are also reports that al-Shabab’s torching of houses, destruction of wells and killing of civilians, combined with demands for taxes amidst the worst drought in 40 years, has prompted locals to form paramilitary groups to fight alongside the government. Earlier this month, al-Shabab fighters killed at least 19 civilians and destroyed trucks delivering food aid in an attack in the area. Al-Shabab has battled Somalia’s central government for more than a decade in its push to establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islamic law. The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) has not publicly acknowledged any role in the operation. Rights activists have previously accused Washington of shrouding its Somalia operations in secrecy, potentially undermining accountability for incidents involving civilian deaths.