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US ups Somalia military campaign, targets ‘Daesh’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The file photo of an American RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft in flight

The US has carried out its first air strikes against purported Daesh positions in Somalia as Washington moves to step up its military campaign in the militancy-riddled state and the entire African continent.

The US military said on Friday that “several terrorists” were killed in two air strikes in Somalia’s northern state of Puntland

The Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) said the first strike was carried out at midnight local time (2100 GMT, Thursday) and another one at 11 a.m. local time (0800 GMT, Friday).

“US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats,” the statement said, adding that the drone attacks had been coordinated with the Somali government.

Daesh, which first showed face in Somalia in 2015, is engaged in rivalry with al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants involved in a separate terror campaign in the country.

The latest US drone raids came after the White House granted the US military broader authority to carry out military strikes against what are said to be militant positions in Somalia.

The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has been carrying out air strikes and ground raids in Somalia for a decade. It has been conducting clandestine operations against al-Qaeda in East Africa, and its local ally al- Shabab as part of its so-called ‘war on terror,’ which began in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, according to investigative sources.

JSOC forces are regularly deployed on the ground for surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault and capture operations.

The US air attacks began in 2007 with helicopters and AC-130 gunships. In June 2011, American forces began using drones to carry out strikes in Somalia against purported militant positions, in a mission which has so far failed to uproot militancy in the country.

US drones are quite notorious across the world for inflicting casualties on civilians in areas they operate against suspected enemies. Such attacks in Somalia increased after Trump allowed expanded military operations against al-Shabab, including more aggressive airstrikes in Somalia. That has sparked an increase in counterattacks by al-Shabab on civilians and security forces.

US troops in Africa

There are currently over 6,000 US troops stationed in Africa.

The US has previously confirmed fatalities among its military on the continent, when four US service members were killed in Niger in early October, attacked by a Daesh-affiliated militant group.

In mid-October, nearly 360 people were killed and over 200 injured in twin bombings in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

The attack reportedly came in retaliation for a joint raid by the government and US forces on a terrorist stronghold.

The attack was the deadliest extremists’ terrorist attack in Somali history.

In late October, the chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, claimed that Daesh group “has aspirations to establish a larger presence" in Africa after being pushed out of Syria and Iraq.

He said Pentagon planned to advise US President Donald Trump and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the increased “allocation of forces” in Africa, citing Daesh threats.

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