A single American military airstrike killed at least 100 fighters allied with the Somali-based terror group al-Shabab, the Pentagon revealed Tuesday, adding to an escalating body count as the Trump administration ramps up its counterterrorism campaign in the West African nation.
U.S. forces working with the Somalian government on Tuesday confirmed an American sortie against a suspected al-Shabab camp ended with more than 100 fighters dead. The strike, which took place 125 miles west of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, was the largest casualty count racked up by U.S. warplanes operating in Somalia this month.
And the Pentagon said the up-tempo pace will not fade quickly.
“U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats” working with the African Union and Somali federal forces, the U.S. Africa Command said in a statement shortly after Tuesday’s strike.
Reached by the Reuters news service, al-Shabab spokesman Abdiasis Abu Musab denied the attack.
“It is just … propaganda,” he said.
But Somalia’s state news agency SONNA reported late on Tuesday that “about 100 militants” had indeed been killed when U.S. planes and Somali commandos attacked al-Shabab bases in the Bur Elay area of Bay region.
The attack on the al-Shabab compound was the fifth by American fighters against targets associated with the terror group that has been fighting a deadly insurgent war against the weak Somalian government.
Several militants were killed during a pair of initial airstrikes on Nov. 3, while several more died during a Nov. 14 U.S. strike on an al-Shabab target 60 miles northwest of Mogadishu, command officials confirmed at the time.
There are currently 500 U.S. military personnel stationed in Somalia, supporting and leading counterterrorism operations in the country, Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said earlier this month. He declined to comment on the exact number of al-Shabab fighters based in the country, or whether other terror groups like Islamic State were gaining a foothold in the Horn of Africa.
In one of its first national security actions, the Trump administration in May ordered an escalation of American-led operations against al-Shabab’s network in Somalia. The order came weeks after Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken was killed in a Navy SEALs raid against a known al-Shabab stronghold in the country
His death was the first U.S. casualty in Somalia since 18 American soldiers were killed during the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident in 1993.
Earlier this month the U.S. warned of a threat to American diplomatic personnel in Mogadishu and directed all nonessential staff to leave the capital.
Al-Shabab has lost control of most of Somalia’s cities and towns since it was pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011. But it retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center and carries out terror attacks, Reuters reported.