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The New Arab

US strike in Somalia kills more than a hundred Shabaab fighters

US forces can call in more airstrikes in Somalia without high level approval [AFP]

Date of publication: 21 November, 2017

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US forces conducted an airstrike against the al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab group in Somalia on Tuesday, killing more than 100 militants, military officials said.

More than 100 militants from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Shabaab group were killed in a US airstrike in Somalia on Tuesday, military officials claimed.

The operation occurred 125 miles (200 kilometres) north-west of the capital Mogadishu, the US Africa Command said.

"In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, US forces conducted an air strike in Somalia against an al-Shabaab camp on Tuesday, 21 November at approximately 10:30am local Somalia time (7:30am GMT), killing more than 100 militants," the statement said.

The US military has in recent months upped the tempo of its operations in Somalia, conducting a growing number of drone strikes against al-Shabaab and other militants.

Earlier this month, Washington said it launched airstrikes on Islamic State group fighters in Somalia for the first time.

Six missiles hit an IS base in Buqa village, north-eastern Somalia and killed "several terrorists," the US military's Africa Command said in a statement.

"Local residents and pastoralists were shocked and fled from the area," Jama Mohamed Qurshe, chairman of the town of Qandala in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland told the Voice of America.

AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo said no civilians were in the vicinity of the strikes.

"They struck their intended targets," he told AFP, noting these were the first anti-IS airstrikes in Somalia.

The first strike occurred around midnight Somalia time (3am GMT) with the second strike coming at about 11am (2pm GMT).

"US forces will continue to use all authorised and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats," AFRICOM said.

IS claimed its first suicide attack in Somalia in May, killing at least five people as it stepped up activities in a region dominated by al-Shabaab.

The militants are led by former al-Shabaab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin, who switched allegiance from al-Qaeda to IS in October 2015 and was named a "global terrorist" by the US State Department in August.

Mumin was born in Puntland and lived in Sweden before moving to the UK in the 2000s, where he was granted British citizenship.

The surge in US operations came after President Donald Trump in March loosened the constraints on the US military to take actions against alleged terrorists when they judge it is needed, without seeking specific White House approval.

It has carried out at least 19 drone strikes in Somalia since January, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, though Friday’s air raids were the first to target IS.

In response to questions about the massive October truck bombing in Somalia, a Pentagon spokesman said the US has about 400 troops in Somalia and "we're not going to speculate" about sending more.

In April, the US announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to Somalia in the largest such deployment to the country in roughly two decades.

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