A precision air-strike by the U.S military in Somalia has killed a high-ranking leader of the al-Shabaab terrorist organization.
Yusuf Jiis, a founding member of the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist group, was one of the three terrorists killed on April 2, officials from U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced on Tuesday.
“He was violent, ruthless, and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives.” said AFRICOM Commander and U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend. “His removal makes Somalia and neighboring countries safer.”
Three more airstrikes have been carried out since over the last few days, killing 18 al-Shabaab terrorists, with no recorded civilian casualties, according to AFRICOM.
No details of the type of aircraft used in the strike—whether it was manned or unmanned—were given by AFRICOM.
Al-Shabaab is an Islamic extremist terrorist organization with close ties to al-Qaeda that was driven out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011, but still controls areas in the rural south of the country.
“While we might like to pause our operations in Somalia because of the Coronavirus, the leaders of al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and ISIS have announced that they see this crisis as an opportunity to further their terrorist agenda so we will continue to stand with and support our African partners,” Townsend said.
Although the U.S. military is prioritizing a pivot from counter-insurgency toward great power competition with Russia and China, tackling terrorism remains a stated goal of U.S. defense policy as per the 2018 National Defense Strategy, albeit it’s lower down the list.
Counter-terrorism is the main task of the U.S. military in Africa.
Al-Shabaab was designated a terrorist organization in 2008 by the United States and has since killed hundreds of civilians in East Africa, according to the State Department. The group’s gruesome tally includes the truck bomb that killed over 500 people in Mogadishu in October 2017, the September 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Kenya that killed over 70, and the July 2010 suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that took place during the World Cup and killed 76 people, including one U.S. citizen.
“Al-Shabaab remains a disease in Somalia and is an indiscriminate killer of innocent people and their only desire is to brutalize populations inside Somalia and outside of Somalia,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations at AFRICOM. “Putting pressure on this network helps contain their ambition and desire to cause harm and destruction.”
African peacekeeping troops and the Somali National Army have been ousting Al-shabaab from strongholds in southern Somalia and establishing outposts, with the help of AFRICOM, according to U.S. military officials.
Together with Turkish troops, U.S. Special Operations Forces are training Somali National Army forces under the Somalian government.