Latest reports from Pentagon claim that the U.S. carried out two successful airstrikes in Somalia on Monday and Tuesday this week, killing at least 12 Al-Shabaab militants.
Speaking to journalists in Washington on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis confirmed the report saying the US government acted in “self-defense” following an “imminent threat” against American troops in Somalia.
“The two assaults were carried out by drones and US aircraft, and targeted an Al-Shabaab camp on the northern side of Kismayo town,” said the US defense official. He further confirmed that the attacks, which involved several precision-guided bombs, only targeted the militia’s home turf, thus preventing civilian casualties.
US in Somalia
The United States of America has been actively involved in the process of restoring peace in Somalia from as early as 1993 during Operation Restore Hope. At that time, a US-led task force, UNITAF, was sent to enforce United Nations Security Council Resolution 794, which designated that a protected environment be created for smooth humanitarian operations in Southern Somalia.
On 7 March this year, the US in conjunction with AMISOM troops managed to carry out a major assault on Al-Shabaab in Somalia in which over 150 militants were killed. Carried out by drones and US aircraft, the attack targeted a field where Al-Shabaab fighters were gathered.“We believe the assembly was a graduation ceremony and a prelude to an imminent attack against American troops and their allies in East Africa,” US officials said. No civilian casualties were reported.
Currently, US troops are assisting African Union troops under the Africa Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) umbrella to fight Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group based in Somalia. The group has been fighting the UN-supported government in Somalia for decades, and has recently extended its target area to neighboring countries including Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia.
With the help of US troops, AMISOM forces have been able to push the militia out of the main towns it once controlled. However, the group still remains a major threat to the economic development of not just Somalia but the East African region as a whole.
Al-Shabaab Kills Dozens of Kenyan Troops in el-Ade
In February of this year, Al-Shabaab staged a major attack on Kenyan defense forces (KDF) in el-Ade Somalia where reportedly about 180 soldiers died. This was one of the most deadly attacks on Kenyan soldiers since they entered Somalia in October 2011.
Before the el-Ade attack, the militant group had staged a series of other deadly attacks on Kenyan soil including attacks at Westgate, Mpeketoni, and Garissa University. Although Kenya has managed to thwart numerous terror attacks by the insurgents, the group still remains a potent threat.
Hunger in Somalia
In January of this year, the United Nations warned of looming hunger in the war-torn Somalia despite the heavy rains and floods that were experienced in the country late in 2015. Appealing for aid, UN humanitarian coordinator in Somalia Petere de Clerq said the agency required about $885 million to be able to provide food aid to the millions of affected Somalis.
“We aim to reduce the number of people requiring food aid to 3.2 million from 4.9 million and cut malnutrition rates,” de Clerq said.
Somalia has been engulfed in unrest since 1991 when the civil war broke out. Continued terror attacks and political instability have made it hard for aid workers to access the most affected areas in the country, exposing more people to hunger and other serious health risks. Cases of aid workers being attacked by militants in Somalia are also rampant, which adds to the looming danger of hunger.
However, aid agencies remain hopeful that the situation will improve this year and there will be better performing markets as well as enhanced security in places that have previously been engulfed in serious fighting. They are also hopeful that with improved security and political will, they will be able to give the required food and other forms of aid to millions of Somalis.
According to de Clerq, humanitarian demands in Somalia have increased with the arrival of about 30,000 Somalis who returned from Kenya where they had sought refuge since 1991 following the civil war. Many more are returning from Yemen where there is an ongoing civil war.