AntiWar.com & The Washington Post & BBC World News – 2016-03-08 00:44:41
Pentagon: Drone Strike in Somalia Kills Over 150 Militants
Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(March 7, 2016) — US drones launched a massive attack against an al-Shabaab training camp 120 miles north of the Somali capital city of Mogadishu, according to the Pentagon. Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis claims over 150 militants were slain in the attack.
Officials say that they were watching the camp “for several weeks” prior to the attack, and the Pentagon claimed they posed “an imminent threat to US forces.” Itâ€™s not clear where those US forces are that were at risk.
The attack reported took place on Saturday, and US officials are insisting that there are no indications of any civilian casualties. This is a common claim after US strikes, though time and again civilian tolls start cropping up in the days that follow.
The Australian government also reported having seized a shipload of weapons that were on a fishing boat near Oman, claiming that they believe the weapons were heading for Somalia. This is adding to talk that al-Shabaab is on the rise as a regional force.
US Airstrike Kills More than 150
At Somalia Terrorist Camp, Military Says
Thomas Gibbons-Neff / The Washington Post
(March 7, 2016) — The United States launched a series of airstrikes on an al-Shabab training camp in Somalia Saturday, killing more than 150 militants and averting what a Pentagon official described as an “imminent threat” posed by the group to both US and African Union troops stationed in the war-torn country.
The US attack, the deadliest against al-Shabab in more than a decade, involved both manned and unmanned aircraft, according to a senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak frankly about the operation. There were believed to be no civilian casualties in the strike, although the Pentagon is still assessing the situation, said the official.
The strike on the camp in Raso, approximately 120 miles north of Mogadishu, is the second US attack on a major terrorist training facility in less than a month. In February, a US airstrike targeted an Islamic State training camp in Sabratha, Libya. A senior leader of the group, Noureddine Chouchane, and 48 other Islamic State fighters were killed.
According to the defense official, US intelligence assets had been watching the camp in Somalia for several weeks prior to the strike. The site was home to a large group of fighters who were scheduled to depart in the coming days.
Last month, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a suicide bomber attack that ripped a hole in the side of an Emirati airliner, forcing the plane to land in Mogadishu. No one was killed except the bomber.
A statement from al-Shabab claimed the attack was aimed to target western and Turkish intelligence officials, and it is thought that the bomber might have been aboard the wrong plane.
“The removal of these fighters degrades al-Shabab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, including recruiting new members, establishing bases, and planning attacks on US and AMISOM forces,” said Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook, using an acronym for the African Unionâ€™s troops.
Along with the attack on the airliner, al-Shabab claimed last month to have ambushed and killed more than 100 Kenyan troops operating in Somalia. While disputed by the Kenyan army, the attack, if true, would be one of Shabab’s deadliest to date. Kenya currently has approximately 4,000 troops in Somalia in a bid to support African Union forces fighting in the region.
In September 2014, a series of airstrikes killed one of al-Shabab’s founders, Ahmed Abdi Godane, in an attack the Pentagon said decapitated the groupâ€™s senior leadership.
Though the United States has targeted al-Shabab since 2008, the group has remained resilient and locally active despite losing some of its senior leadership.
Four years ago, al-Shabab, which means “the youth” in Arabic, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. More recently, there has been tension with the Islamic State, which has become a rival militant group.
In 2015, al-Shabab was targeted by the Islamic State in a propaganda campaign that aimed to convince the groupâ€™s leadership to pledge allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State. Despite some infighting, the group remained mostly insulated from the Islamic State’s growing influence.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon has continued trying to stamp out al-Shabab.
According to data compiled by the think tank New America, there have been 15 Special Operations raids and 12 drone strikes in Somalia since 2003. Prior to 2008, strikes in Somalia were relegated to attacking al-Qaeda forces there.
In 2013, US Navy SEALs carried out a night time raid in a bid to kill or capture one of al-Shababâ€™s senior leaders. The raid turned into a prolonged gun battle after the SEALs were discovered, forcing the commandoes to retreat to the sea.
In the 13 years of US operations in Somalia, the combination of raids and drone strikes has killed approximately 150 al-Shabab and al-Qaeda militants. All of the drone strikes have occurred during President Obamaâ€™s tenure as his administration has sought to contain al-Shabab’s growth.
In 2013, a number of al-Shabab militia members seized control of the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in an attack that killed at least 67 people. Last year, the group was responsible for an attack on dormitories at Garissa University College in northeastern Kenya that killed 148 people.
There is a small detachment of approximately 50 US advisers in Somalia aiding the African Union troops stationed in the war-torn country. Their deployment in 2013 marked the first time US ground troops were stationed in the country since a detachment of Rangers and Delta Force soldiers withdrew following the failure of Operation Gothic Serpent, known to many as the Black Hawk Down incident, in 1993.
The drones that carried out the strike are likely to have been flown from the small US drone base at Chabelley Airfield in nearby Djibouti.
US Air Strike ‘Kills 150 Somali Militants’
BBC World News
(March 7, 2016) — A US air strike has killed more than 150 al-Shabab militants in Somalia, the Pentagon says. Spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said the strike hit a training camp where a “large-scale” attack was being planned.
“We know they were going to be departing the camp and they posed an imminent threat to US and [African Union] forces,” Captain Davis said. “Initial assessments are that more than 150 terrorist fighters were eliminated,” he added.
Mr Davis said the strike, by both drones and manned aircraft, took place on Saturday and targeted Raso Camp, a training facility about 120 miles (195km) north of the capital, Mogadishu.
The camp had been under surveillance for some time, according to Mr Davis. “There was a sense that the operational phase was about to happen,” he said. He said the group had neared the completion of specialist training to conduct “offensive operations”, but did not give any details about the alleged plans.
Al-Shabab, an affiliate of al-Qaeda, was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has continued to launch frequent attacks in its bid to overthrow the Western-backed government.
Who Are al-Shabab?
The group has said it carried out a string of recent attacks including a twin bombing at a busy restaurant in the Somali city of Baidoa last month. Also on Monday, the Australian navy said it had seized a huge cache of weapons on a fishing boat off the coast of Oman that was apparently heading for Somalia.
Grenade launchers, machine guns, and 2,000 assault rifles were concealed under fishing nets, a Navy spokesman said.
Tomi Oladipo, Africa Security Correspondent
Crippling al-Shabab is top of a recently announced US military strategy for Africa, which also includes addressing the situation in Libya and containing Boko Haram in West Africa. With drones from its nearby bases in neighboring Djibouti, the US has succeeded in striking hard at the heart of al-Shabab operations, including killing Ahmed Godane, the leader of the jihadi group, in 2014.
The jihadis have since learned that they are often watched by surveillance aircraft and so they tend to meet under trees to avoid detection. This method has its limits, as this latest incident shows. They cannot train at will without being seen.
Al-Shabab maintains its determination to establish its rule over Somalia, hence its resilience and increasingly sophisticated attacks. The group is suspected to be behind an explosion at a security checkpoint at the Beledweyne airport, which could have been more lethal had the explosives got aboard an airliner.
Major al-Shabab Attacks in 2016
28 February — on a restaurant and busy junction in Baidoa killing at least 30 people
26 February — on Mogadishu’s SYL hotel killing nine people
21 January — on a restaurant at Mogadishu’s Lido beach killing 20 people
15 January — on a Kenyan base in el-Ade that Somalia’s president said killed at least 180 soldiers
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