The United States military has said it killed two fighters from the al-Shabab armed group during an air raid in a remote part of southern Somalia over the weekend.
The strike took place on Sunday near Libikus, in the Lower Juba region, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement late on Monday.
The command said the raid was carried out in response to an attack on “partner forces” in the region. It provided no further details about the reported attack.
“The command’s initial assessment is that two al al-Shabab terrorists were killed in action,” AFRICOM said. “No civilians were injured or killed given the remote nature of where this engagement occurred.”
The US has routinely carried out air raids in Somalia to try to defeat al-Shabab, an al-Qaeda affiliate which has been fighting for years to topple the country’s Western-backed government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
But rights activists and critics have accused Washington of shrouding its Somalia operations in secrecy, potentially undermining accountability for incidents involving civilian deaths.
In its statement, AFRICOM said its forces and Somalia’s government “take great measures to prevent civilian casualties”.
“These efforts contrast with the indiscriminate attacks that al-Shabab regularly conducts against the civilian population,” AFRICOM said. “Violent extremist organisations like al-Shabab present long-term threats to Somali, regional and US interests.”
US troops’ presence
In May, US President Joe Biden ordered the redeployment of troops to Somalia to help local authorities combat al-Shabab, reversing a decision by his predecessor Donald Trump to withdraw most of the forces Washington had deployed in the country.
The announcement was made in the wake of the election of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud as the new president of the Horn of Africa nation. Mohamud said during a visit to Turkey earlier this month that his government would negotiate with the group only when the time is right.
Al-Shabab remains a potent threat in Somalia despite Washington’s campaign and a long-running operation by the African Union to curtail it.
The group was pushed out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011 but still controls a number of major routes leading to it and some neighbouring areas, as well as parts of the countryside. It regularly launches attacks on civilian, government and military targets.
On Sunday, a car bombing outside a popular hotel in central Somalia that was claimed by al-Shabab killed at least five people.
At least 14 others were wounded in the blast, which destroyed the hotel and adjacent buildings in the southern city of Jowhar, situated about 90km (56 miles) northwest of Mogadishu.