The US military said Tuesday that an October 12 US “precision airstrike” near Harardhere, Somalia killed some 60 Al-Qaeda-affiliated fighters. “We currently assess this airstrike killed approximately 60 terrorists,” US Africa Command which oversees US military operations on the continent said in a statement. Two US defense officials told CNN the strike was carried out by an unmanned drone.
The statement added that Africa Command currently assesses that no civilians were killed or injured in the strike. The strike targeted the militants associated with the group Al-Shabaab, al Qaeda’s largest affiliate. Africa Command said Friday’s strike “was the largest airstrike against Al-Shabaab since November 21, 2017, when US forces conducted an airstrike against an Al-Shabaab camp killing approximately 100 terrorists.”
While the US has conducted 27 airstrikes against Al-Shabaab in 2018, though usually the strikes target small groups of militants. A “collective self-defense” strike on Sunday killed four Al-Shabaab fighters after a US-backed local partner force came under attack near Araara, Somalia.
In March of 2017, President Donald Trump authorized the US military to carry out precision strikes targeting Al-Shabaab in an effort to bolster the Federal Government of Somalia. Prior to that the US military was only authorized to carry out airstrikes in self-defense of advisers on the ground. The US has some 500 troops in Somalia, primarily in advisory roles.