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Islamic militancy

US air strike kills 60 extremist fighters in Somalia, Pentagon says

No civilians were injured or killed in Friday’s air strike, one of the deadliest operations against al-Shabab

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 10:16am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 October, 2018, 10:16am

A US air strike has killed 60 Islamist extremist fighters in Somalia, in one of the deadliest ever such operations against the al-Shabab organisation in the unstable eastern African country.

The US military said Friday’s air strike occurred near the al-Shabab-controlled community of Harardere in Mudug province in the central part of the country. According to its assessment no civilians were injured or killed.

It was the most lethal US air strike the November 2017 attack which killed about 100 al-Shabab fighters. The statement gave no further details about what was targeted, and a US military spokesman said it was not a camp.

The US has carried out more than three dozen air strikes, including drone strikes, this year against the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab, the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Sub-Saharan Africa.

At least five have occurred in the last month.

The use of air power in Somalia has been steadily increasing since before Donald Trump became US president.

Trump relaxed guidelines intended to prevent civilian casualties and gave local military commanders greater authority in ordering attacks.

Last year there were 31 such attacks and 15 in 2016, according to the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, a Washington-based research institute.

The US Africa Command spokesman said the air strike had no link to the anniversary of a massive bomb that killed nearly 600 people in Mogadishu.

The United States, which also has targeted a small number of fighters linked to Islamic State in northern Somalia, has increased its military presence in Somalia since early 2017 to about 500 personnel after Trump approved expanded military operations.

Al-Shabab, which has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Somalia for almost a decade, continues to hold parts of the country’s south and central regions after being chased out of Mogadishu several years ago.

The group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, has proved tenacious and regularly carries out deadly attacks against high-profile targets such as hotels and checkpoints in the capital and other cities. It also remains a threat in parts of neighbouring Kenya.

Some observers have questioned the effectiveness of air strikes by the US and Kenya and raised concerns about civilians being killed.

An investigation by The Guardian earlier this year found that more than 50 civilians were killed or injured in air strikes in the last six months of 2017.

At least two attacks involved US aircraft.

The US military maintains that air strikes “reduce al-Shabab’s ability to plot future attacks, disrupt its leadership networks and degrade its freedom of manoeuvre within the region”.

In a press release, the US Africa command said the strike on Friday had been carried out in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia,

It gave no further details.