The US military carried out a drone strike over the weekend targeting a training camp run by the jihadist group al Shabaab north of the Somali capital of Mogadishu over the weekend, killing more than 150 fighters, the Pentagon said on Monday, according to Reuters.
“It was a successful strike,” said Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis, adding US intelligence indicated the group was preparing for a “large scale attack” and posed a threat to US and African Union forces in Somalia.
According to The New York Times, the strike targeted a graduation ceremony at a “training facility” in Rasa.
The town of Rasa Kaadale sits 120 kilometers northeast of Mogadishu, close to the front line of Shabaab control according to a September 2015 BBC map of territorial control in the country.
The strike comes after a series of major attacks attributed to Al Qaeda’s powerful Somali affiliate.
On January 15th, al Shabaab overran a Kenyan military base in el-Ade, in southwestern Somalia, killing as many as 60 soldiers. The Kenyan military, which is part of a multi-national military force aimed at assisting the country’s government in securing the country, pulled out of el-Ade 11 days later, effectively ceding the territory to the jihadists.
Last month, Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attempted February 2nd bomb attack on a Somali passenger plane. The bomber was the only person killed in the attack and the plane was able to safely land in Mogadishu.
But the plot revealed that Shabaab had both the ability and the ambition to detonate a bomb onboard a passenger airliner, something the group had never attempted before.
Shabaab lost control over much of Somalia in 2011 and 2012 after a sustained coalition offensive against the group.
But it retained an extensive terror infrastructure and alarming battlefield capabilities.
The group is particularly dangerous because of its ability to strike beyond Somalia’s borders.
Al Shabaab is responsible for several major attacks in neighbouring Kenya, including the September 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, in which 67 people were killed; and the April 2015 massacre of 147 students at Garissa University, in western Kenya.
This week’s airstrike against the group shows that the US and its partners are concerned that Shabaab is capable of building on its recent string of attacks both inside and outside of the country.
But while the strike may have killed scores of potential Shabaab fighters, airstrikes against the group have had a mixed record in terms of actually changing its behaviour — Shabaab waged some of its deadliest attacks in the years after domineering Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane’s September 2014 death in a US drone strike.
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