US airstrike in Somalia kills 12 al-Shabaab militants

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The U.S. military launched another airstrike in Somalia last week in support of Somali army forces who were engaging al-Shabaab militants. 

Twelve al-Shabaab militants were reportedly killed in the strike, which occurred on Feb. 10 roughly 28 miles southwest of the town of Hobyo, which is approximately  290 miles northeast of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, according to U.S. Africa Command. 

U.S. Africa Command declined to provide further information about what units or assets were involved, but the airstrike is the latest mission carried out by the U.S. as part of its enduring presence in Somalia and East Africa. Last month, on Jan. 25, U.S. forces “conducted an assault operation” that killed Bilal al-Sudani, an ISIS leader in Somalia. That came just a few days after airstrikes on Jan. 20 and Jan. 23 against al-Shabaab — a terrorist group with links to al-Qaida — forces. While no U.S. troops were on the ground for either of those strikes, the Jan. 20 strike reportedly killed more than 30 al-Shabaab militants. 

In September 2019, a large group of al-Shabaab militants attacked an airfield guarded by New Jersey Army National Guard soldiers, in what was described as the “largest battle against al-Shabaab militants since Operation Gothic Serpent,” the 1993 operation to capture the Somali leader Mohamed Farrah Aidid, which resulted in the infamous “Black Hawk Down” incident. Last fall, an Army doctor was awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received during a 2020 ambush by al-Shabaab forces in the village of Jana Cabdalle, in southeast Somalia. In that incident, Lt. Col. Daniel Brillhart and other U.S. and Somali forces “endured stiff enemy resistance while manning the fighting positions during the attack and providing medical treatment to over two dozen friendly casualties, which ultimately [allowed] the element to fight their way back to friendly lines without further losses.”

The U.S. presence in Somalia, at least in the context of the Global War on Terror, dates back to 2007. In late 2020, the roughly 700 U.S. personnel deployed there were withdrawn to other points in East Africa. Airstrikes in the county, though, continued throughout 2021 until May 2022, when a small number of U.S. troops were redeployed to Somalia, although not to be “directly engaged in combat operations.”

Throughout 16 years in Somalia and East Africa, though, the U.S. presence has rarely captured many headlines. Still, it’s a reminder that even if the National Defense Service Ribbon has been retired for now, the Global War on Terror, be it in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, or elsewhere, is not yet over.

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