US kills So­mali rebels un­der new air strike rules

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD - MEL FRYKBERG

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.

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