WASHINGTON, Nov 4, (Agencies): The US conducted a pair of drone strikes against Islamic State fighters in Somalia on Friday, the first time America has hit the jihadists in the Horn of Africa nation, officials said. The strikes occurred in northeastern Somalia and killed “several terrorists,” the US military’s Africa Command said in a statement.
According to Voice of America, which cited the chairman of the town of Qandala in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, six missiles hit an IS base in Buqa village, 60 kilometers (35 miles) away. “Local residents and pastoralists were shocked and fl ed from the area,” Jama Mohamed Qurshe told VOA. AFRICOM spokesman Lieutenant Commander Anthony Falvo said no civilians were in the vicinity of the strikes. “They struck their intended targets,” he told AFP, noting these were the first anti-IS air strikes in Somalia.
The first strike occurred around midnight Somalia time (0300 GMT) with the second strike coming at about 11:00 am (1400 GMT). In recent months, the US has repeatedly hit Somali jihadists from the Shabaab rebel group that is aligned with al-Qaeda, but Friday’s development marks a significant step in the ever-evolving war against IS.
“US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats,” AFRICOM said. IS claimed its first suicide attack in Somalia in May, killing at least five people as it stepped up activities in a region dominated by the Shabaab.
The militants are led by former Shabaab cleric Abdiqadir Mumin, who switched allegiance from Al- Qaeda to IS in October 2015 and was named a “global terrorist” by the US State Department in August. Mumin was born in Puntland and lived in Sweden before moving to the UK in the 2000s, where he was granted British citizenship.
The United States has ordered all non-essential employees of its mission to Somalia to leave the capital, Mogadishu, because of “specific threat information” against them. Saturday’s statement says the information relates to Mogadishu International Airport. Somalia remains one of the world’s most dangerous countries. The US hasn’t had an embassy there since 1991 and calls security “extremely unstable.”