Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 1 April 2020

US strikes kill four militants in Somalia

Aerial attacks came just one day after a car bomb in Mogadishu killed 79

Al Shabab are thought to be behind a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, but have not claimed the attack. Reuters
Al Shabab are thought to be behind a car bomb explosion at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, but have not claimed the attack. Reuters

The United States military said it carried out air strikes that killed four "terrorists" in Somalia on Sunday, a day after the country's deadliest attack in two years.

The air strikes hit two Al Shabab locations in the conflict-ridden hit East African nation.

"These precision air strikes targeted Al Shabab militants responsible for terrorist acts against innocent Somali citizens and coordinating with Al Qaeda," the US Africa Command said.

"The US and the federal government of Somalia will continue to increase pressure on the terrorist organisation in order to deny them the ability to plot terrorist attacks."

Two strikes killed two militants and destroyed two vehicles in Qunyo Barrow while a third strike killed another two in Caliyoow Barrow, said the US military.

The bombings followed a massive car bomb explosion in a busy area of Mogadishu on Saturday that killed at least 79 people dead and wounded scores.

At least 16 of those killed were students from the capital's private Banadir University, who had been travelling on a bus when the car bomb detonated at a busy intersection south-west of the Somali capital.

Scores of wounded were carried on stretchers from the site, where the force of the explosion left the charred and twisted remains of vehicles.

Two Turkish nationals were also killed, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

The attack was not claimed. Mogadishu is regularly hit by car bombings and attacks waged by the Al Shabab militants, who have fought for more than a decade to topple the Somali government.

The militant group emerged from the Islamic Courts Union, which once controlled central and southern Somalia, and is believed to number between 5,000 and 9,000 men.

Al Shabab declared its allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2010. The following year, its fighters fled positions they once held in the capital Mogadishu, and have since lost many strongholds.

But they retain control of large rural areas of the country and continue to wage a guerrilla war against the authorities.

"Since Al Shabab's first external attack in 2010, the group has ruthlessly killed hundreds," said Maj Gen William Gayler, the US Africa Command director of operations.

"They have attacked and killed African partners, allies and fellow Americans."

Since 2015, there have been 13 attacks in Somalia with death tolls above 20. Eleven of these have been in Mogadishu, according to a tally of AFP figures.

All of them involved car bombs.

The deadliest attack in the country's history was a bombing involving a lorry in October 2017 that killed 512 people and wounded 295 in Mogadishu.

US strikes in Somalia surged after President Donald Trump declared the south of the country an "area of active hostilities".

The rate of air strikes has risen sharply this year. The US said in April that it had killed more than 800 people in 110 strikes in Somalia since April 2017.

The US, which has been accused by Amnesty International of killing civilians in its air strikes, said no civilians appeared to have been killed or wounded in its Sunday strike.

The strikes came as the US killed 15 fighters in Iraq.

Updated: December 30, 2019 03:19 PM

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