US says it killed 37 militants in two Somalia airstrikes

An MQ-9 Reaper, armed with GBU-12 Paveway II laser guided munitions and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, piloted by Col. Lex Turner flies a combat mission over southern Afghanistan. Full Credit: U.S. Air Force Photo / Lt. Col. Leslie Pratt

The US military killed 37 militants in two separate airstrikes in the vicinity of Debatscile, Somalia, on Monday, according to a statement from US Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent.

The strike targeted the militants associated with al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s largest affiliate.

A US defense official told CNN that the strikes were carried out by unmanned drone aircraft and that the target of the first strike was an al-Shabaab camp.

Africa Command said the “precision strike was a planned and deliberate action” that killed 27 militants in the first strike and a subsequent strike the US says they killed an additional 10 militants.

“These precision airstrikes were conducted in support of the Federal Government of Somalia as it continues to degrade al-Shabaab. Airstrikes reduce al-Shabaab’s ability to plot future attacks, disrupt its leadership networks, and degrade its freedom of maneuver within the region,” the statement said.

The US military currently assesses that the airstrikes did not injure or kill any civilians.

While the US has now conducted 31 airstrikes against al-Shabaab in 2018, the strikes usually target small groups of militants.

The last major strike against al-Shabaab took place last month and killed some 60 al Qaeda-affiliated fighters.

In March of 2017, President Donald Trump authorized the US military to carry out precision strikes targeting al-Shabaab in an effort to bolster the federal government of Somalia.

Prior to that, the US military was only authorized to carry out airstrikes in self-defense of advisers on the ground.

The US has some 500 troops in Somalia, primarily in advisory roles.

While the Department of Defense recently announced plans to reduce the number of US troops in Africa, the Pentagon has said that US forces in Somalia will be unaffected by the drawdown.

A senior US defense official told CNN last week that the US was concerned about international terror threats emanating from East Africa which is one of the reasons US counterterrorism forces in Somalia were shielded from the cuts.