US airstrikes kill 62 militants in Somalia
By JOHN VANDIVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 17, 2018
STUTTGART, Germany — A flurry of U.S. airstrikes killed 62 militants over a two-day span in Somalia, U.S. Africa Command said Monday.
The attacks bring 2018’s strike total in Somalia to 45 — eclipsing last year’s tally of 35, AFRICOM said.
“U.S. forces, in cooperation with the government of Somalia, are conducting ongoing counterterrorism operations against al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia to degrade the groups’ ability to recruit, train, and plot terror attacks in Somalia and the region,” Maj. Karl Wiest, an AFRICOM spokesman, said in a statement.
On Saturday, four strikes were launched, killing 34 al-Shabab militants, AFRICOM said. Two more strikes in the same area on Sunday killed 28 fighters, the command said.
For years, Somali troops and their international backers have been battling against the militant group known as al-Shabab, which is recognized as the most active terrorist group in Africa. The group’s attacks are focused almost exclusively inside Somalia, where it has battled for more than a decade in hopes of seizing control of the fragile country. More recently, there also have been flickers of Islamic State group activity in Somalia.
“ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab pose a direct threat to Americans, our allies, and interests in the region. We support the Federal Government of Somalia, its forces, and partners, and will continue to degrade the functional networks of ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab,” Wiest said.
The U.S. has stepped up its military support of Somalia over the past few years. In addition to airstrikes, U.S. special operations troops train and advise their Somali counterparts, accompanying local forces on missions against militants.
Earlier this month, the U.S. re-established a permanent diplomatic mission in the country for the first time in nearly 30 years.