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US Claims to Kill 13 al-Shabaab Militants with Airstrike in Southern Somalia

© AP Photo / Farah Abdi Warsameh-FILEAl-Shabaab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia
Al-Shabaab fighters display weapons as they conduct military exercises in northern Mogadishu, Somalia - Sputnik International
US Africa Command (AFRICOM) has announced that they killed 13 militants with the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab in southern Somalia. The airstrike took place on Wednesday in coordination with the Somali government.

AFRICOM's statement announcing the strike added that the US continues to support operations against al-Shabaab in Somalia as part of the global fight against terrorism.

"US forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect the United States, its partners and interests and deny safe haven to terrorist groups," the statement read.

In March, US President Donald Trump signed off on more precision airstrikes against al-Shabaab along with a force of 40 US soldiers to train Somali troops in counter-terror strategies — the first US troops to be stationed in Somalia since the deaths of 19 American troops in the "Black Hawk Down" incident in 1993. Earlier in December, the US State Department reportedly decided to decrease the US presence in Somalia.

Somali police guard the road leading to the scene of a suicide bomb attack on a police academy in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia Thursday, Dec. 14, 2017 - Sputnik International
Suicide Attack in Somalia's Capital: At Least 15 Killed in Police Bombing

Somalia has been in a state of intermittent war since 1991, devastating the country and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths. The current phase of the war, a battle between the internationally supported Somali government and an alliance of Islamist terrorist groups including al-Shabaab, has raged since 2009.

Al-Shabaab, whose name literally means "The Youth," is a Daesh-affiliated jihadist group that arose from the Islamic Courts Union, a fundamentalist government that controlled most of southern Somalia, including the capital of Mogadishu, for most of 2006.

ICU was defeated by Ethiopia and Somali warlords in a series of battles in late 2006, leading to the group's splintering and the formation of al-Shabaab. The new group's peak came in 2009 when they captured large chunks of Mogadishu. In 2011, US-supported Somali forces pushed them out of Mogadishu entirely.

An MQ-9 Reaper, a hunter-killer surveillance UAV - Sputnik International
US Targets Daesh in Somalia With Back-to-Back Drone Strikes - Pentagon

Since then, al-Shabaab has gradually lost most of their territory, although they maintain numerous strongholds across the country. They have focused on guerrilla tactics and terrorist attacks in the country's south, striking at Somali and coalition targets before melting back into the brush.

Al-Shabaab has made their presence known in Mogadishu with a series of truck bombing attacks in the capital. The bloodiest strike came on October 14, although al-Shabaab never formally claimed responsibility. The attack left 512 dead.

On December 25, al-Shabaab publicly executed five Somali men in the southern town of Idaale, which they control. The militant group claimed that the condemned were guilty of spying for the intelligence services of Somalia and the US.

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