The U.S. has launched its first devastating air strike Sunday against al-Qaida-affiliated militants in Somalia under new authority granted by President Donald Trump.
The Pentagon estimates the lethal strike destroyed a main al-Shabaab training base about 185 miles southwest of Mogadishu, killing eight militants in the process, Reuters reports.
Trump authorized the Pentagon in March to conduct “legal action” against al-Shabaab in a particular area, in which active hostilities are occurring.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement that the reason for the strike is a direct response to al-Shabaab’s aggressive moves to cement control in the region, noting that in the last eight months, the terror group has captured three African Union Mission in Somalia forward operating bases. Al-Shabaab has also conducted successful operations against government forces in Burundi, Uganda and Kenya, netting the group large supplies of heavy weaponry, armed vehicles, small arms and other gear it has used to make huge strides in Somalia.
“The group has cemented its control southern and central Somalia, they have used this area to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, and to shelter other radical terrorists,” AFRICOM notes.
In May, a U.S. service member was killed during an operation conducted against al-Shabaab, while supporting the Somali National Army.
Moreover, al-Shabaab killed 59 people in an attack on a military base in northern Somalia Thursday, prompting the Pentagon to step in with a response.
Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi released a statement saying government forces coordinated with the U.S. to launch the strike.
“Earlier today, I authorized our special forces with the support of our international partners to conduct a strike against an al Shabaab training camp near Sakow,” Abdullahi said.
“This was a successful strike that destroyed a key al Shabaab command and supply hub. This will ultimately disrupt the enemy’s ability to conduct new attacks within Somalia,” he added.
In a sign the region is growing in important to the Pentagon, a one-star general is now coordinating operations in Somalia, just like in the 1990s.