US military says airstrike kills more than 50 terrorists in Somalia

Al-Shabaab is an al Qaeda-affiliated group

By MICHAEL CALLAHAN AND RYAN BROWNE, CNN
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(CNN) - The US military said Saturday that an airstrike near the Jilib, Middle Juba Region of Somalia killed more than 50 al-Shabaab militants.

Al-Shabaab is an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group.

US Africa Command, which oversees US military operations on the continent, said the airstrike was conducted "in response to an attack by a large group of al-Shabaab militants against Somali National Army Forces" on January 19. The US military said they "currently assess this airstrike killed fifty-two (52) militants" and that they assess that no civilians were killed or injured in the strike.

Al-Shabaab recently claimed responsibility for a terror attack in Nairobi, Kenya, on January 15. Men armed with guns and explosives stormed a hotel complex in the Kenyan capital killing at least 21 people.

The Department of Defense estimates there are 3,000 to 7,000 al-Shabaab fighters and 70 to 250 ISIS fighters in Somalia, as of August 2018.

There has been a significant increase in airstrikes in Somalia by the US since President Donald Trump authorized the US military to carry out precision strikes targeting al-Shabaab in March 2017 in a effort to bolster the Federal Government in Somalia. Prior to that the US military was only authorized to carry out airstrikes in self-defense of advisers on the ground.

Saturday's strike is the 6th US airstrike in Somalia targeting al-Shabaab in 2019. In 2018, the US conducted 47 precision airstrikes against al-Shabaab militants. In 2017, the US conducted 35 air strikes and conducted 15 air strikes in 2016.

The US has approximately 500 troops in Somalia, primarily in advisory roles.

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