United States, Washington: Yesterday, the Pentagon said, the United States (US) launched an air strike in Somalia that killed more than 150 fighters with al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab following US intelligence on preparations for a large-scale militant attack. The Saturday strike, using both manned aircraft and unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drones, targeted al Shabaab’s “Raso” training camp, a facility about 120 miles north of the capital Mogadishu, the Pentagon said.
The US military had been monitoring the camp for several weeks before the strike and had gathered intelligence, including about an imminent threat posed by those in the camp to US forces and African Union peacekeepers, officials said. US Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James described the strike as “defensive” in nature. James told reporters, “There was intelligence … these fighters would soon be embarking upon missions that would directly impact the US and our partners”.
Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer said the Somali intelligence agency had provided information about the camp to the US in the run-up to the attack. Omer told, “There has to be intelligence on the ground for this to happen. Our intelligence had helped”. The al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has remained a potent antagonist in Somalia, launching frequent attacks in its bid to overthrow the Western-backed government.
The group, whose name means “The Youth,” seeks to impose its strict version of sharia law in Somalia, where it frequently unleashes attacks targeting security and government targets, as well as hotels and restaurants in the capital. Al Shabaab was also behind deadly attacks in Kenya and Uganda, which both contribute troops to an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia. Omer said the US drone strike was a major blow to al Shabaab. Omer said, “Instead of al Shabaab attacking civilians, it was a military target that was hit and there was a high success rate”.