US kills Somali rebels under new air strike rules
THE US military yesterday hit a base belonging to the jihadist group al-Shabaab 297km south-west of Mogadishu, in its first air offensive attack in Somalia since US President Donald Trump authorised aerial offensives in March.
“The US conducted this operation in co-ordination with its regional partners as a direct response to al-Shabaab actions, including recent attacks on Somali forces,” said Dana White, the Pentagon’s chief spokesperson.
White explained that the air strike was carried out under the new authorities approved by Trump in March, which “allows the US Department of Defence to conduct legal action against al-Shabaab within a geographically defined area of active hostilities in support of our partner force in Somalia”.
The US Africa Command (Africom) said the air strike targeted “an al-Shabaab command and logistics node”.
Eight al-Shabaab militants were killed in the strike.
“US forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to protect Americans, including partnered military counter-terror operations with (the UN/AU mission in the country) and Somali National Army (SNA) forces; precision strikes against terrorists, their training camps and safe havens; and hunting and tracking members of this al-Qaeda affiliate throughout Somalia, the region and around the world,” said Africom.
Prior to the new authority authorised by Trump in March, the US military was only permitted to carry out attacks on al-Shabaab in self-defence situations when Somali troops or their American advisers came under fire.
The US had carried out previous counter-terrorism missions and air strikes in Somalia targeting al-Shabaab leaders but these were carried out under different authorities targeting al-Qaeda which has been an al-Shabaab affiliate since 2012. The US military is now authorised to conduct air strikes in southern Somalia if there is “a reasonable certainty” that no civilians will be hurt.
This is less stringent than the “near certainty” standard issued by former US president Barack Obama in 2013.
About 50 US personnel are based in Somalia advising and assisting the Somali military.
Americans have bitter memories of the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, in which 18 American soldiers and 312 Somali militiamen were killed. The US withdrew from the country as a result.