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US military kills 100 in strike on al-Shabab training camp

A U.S. airstrike on an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia on Tuesday killed more than 100 of the al-Qaida-aligned militants, according to U.S. Africa Command. AFRICOM said Tuesday that it also conducted strikes in recent days in Libya against Islamic State militants.

STARS AND STRIPES

By COREY DICKSTEIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 21, 2017

WASHINGTON — A U.S. airstrike on an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia on Tuesday killed more than 100 of the al-Qaida-aligned militants, according to U.S. Africa Command.

The morning strike was conducted in coordination with the Somalian government and targeted a terrorist encampment about 125 miles northwest of Mogadishu, according to an AFRICOM statement.

“Al-Shabab has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the U.S. and our partners in the region,” the statement read. “U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats.”

The Tuesday strike marks the 29th American airstrike in Somalia in 2017, a marked uptick from recent years when the United States only occasionally targeted al-Shabab with drone strikes.

President Donald Trump earlier this year expanded authorizations for AFRICOM to target extremist groups in the Horn of Africa, namely al-Shabab, which has grown in recent years and claimed responsibly for attacks primarily in Mogadishu, the country’s capital.

Despite the increase in strikes and the influx of some 500 American troops into Somalia, the Pentagon has pushed back on the notion of a build-up of forces there.

Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie told reporters last week the increase in U.S. personnel in Somalia was a natural “flow of forces” and more attacks is reflective only of an increase in available targets.

“There’s no particular rhythm to it, except that as they become available and as we’re able to process them and vet them, we strike them,” he said Thursday at the Pentagon.

However, the increase in American troops comes as the African Union begins in the coming weeks to pull out its troops, which have been battling al-Shabab in Somalia for a decade. That drawdown is set to be completed by 2020, when Somalia’s fledgling security forces will be left in charge of the fight.

AFRICOM said Tuesday that it also conducted strikes in recent days in Libya against Islamic State militants.

The airstrikes occurred Friday and Sunday near Fuqaha in central Libya, according to a statement. The strikes were coordinated with Libya’s U.N.-recognized Government of National Accord.

Pentagon officials said remnants of ISIS remain in remote areas of Libya. U.S. airpower helped militias backing the Government of National Accord last December drive the terrorist group from Sirte, a city on the Mediterranean Sea in northern Libya.

“The United States stands by our Libyan counterparts efforts to counter terror threats and defeat ISIS in Libya,” the AFRICOM statement reads. “We are committed to maintaining pressure on the terror network and preventing them from establishing safe haven.”

dickstein.corey@stripes.com
Twitter: @CDicksteinDC

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