The United States military announced on Wednesday that it had killed 27 members of the Al-Shabaab militant group in an air strike in the central Hiran region of Somalia. This is the same region where the Somali government and its allies have begun an offensive against the insurgents over the past month.
For a number of years, the United States military has been conducting air attacks in Somalia against al Shabaab, which is a franchise of al Qaeda. According to the website of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), the strike that took place on Sunday was the sixth one documented in 2022.
Residents of the Hiran region say that Al-Shabaab’s burning of homes, damage to wells, and killing of civilians, along with demands for taxes in the middle of the worst drought in forty years, have led locals to form paramilitary groups to fight against the government.
According to a statement released by AFRICOM, the militants were killed while attacking federal forces near Buulobarde, a town located approximately 125 miles (200 kilometers) north of the capital city of Mogadishu. The goal of the militants was to get rid of the central government, which was backed by the West, and replace it with a strict version of Islamic law. AFRICOM said that the defensive attacks allowed the Somali National Army and the forces of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) to regain the lead and keep fighting Al-Shabaab in the Hiraan region of central Somalia.
This operation is the largest combined offensive operation between ATMIS and Somalia that has taken place in the last five years. Requests for comment from the media were ignored by both a spokeswoman for ATMIS and officials from the Somali government. According to a local elder, Al-Shabaab has lost control of ten villages in recent weeks as a result of the operation. ATMIS has not confirmed in public that it was involved in the operation.
Rights groups in the past have leveled accusations against the United States of conducting its operations in Somalia in a covert manner, which could potentially undermine accountability for incidents involving the deaths of civilians. Since 1991, when clan-based warlords toppled a government and then turned on one another, Somalia has been mired in a state of constant civil war.