US: 150 Al-Shabaab Fighters Killed in Air Strike on Somali Training Camp
The US claims to have killed more than 150 Al-Shabaab fighters in a drone attack carried out on one of the group’s training camps in Somalia.
The Pentagon revealed on Monday that the airstrike had been executed over the weekend on a camp roughly 200km north of the capital Mogadishu. The US says the strike was aimed at preventing “a large-scale attack” against US and African Union troops in the country.
‘Training for a large-scale attack’
“The fighters were there training and were training for a large-scale attack,” said spokesman for the Pentagon, Captain Jeff Davis. “We know they were going to be departing the camp and they posed an imminent threat to US and [African Union] forces.”
Davis claims as many as 200 suspected Al-Shabaab militants were at the training camp when the strike was carried out. He also revealed the US military had been monitoring the site for weeks before the attack.
“It was an air operation. Initial assessments are that more than 150 terrorist fighters were eliminated,” he said.
Al-Shabaab denies US figure
Al-Shabaab has since denied the death count proposed by the US as exaggerated. A spokesman for the group insisted the militants never meet in such large numbers due to the threat of attack, although no figures have been given to correct the US count.
Analysts have also warned that, if the US figures are correct, the fact Al-Shabaab had so many numbers in one location is a cause for concern.
“That Al-Shabaab had that many recruits in training at just one location … is a worrying indicator of the group’s continued relevance and its power to attract,” analyst J Peter Pham told the Guardian.
The group has staged an increasing number of attacks in Somalia since the turn of the year, using technology and tactics of a more advanced level than previously seen from the militants.
On Monday six people were wounded when a laptop bomb exploded at an airport in the central town of Beledweyne. This comes after a laptop bomb was successfully smuggled aboard a Somali passenger jet in Mogadishu last month. Neighbouring country Kenya has also put two major airports on high alert in anticipation of attacks on domestic flights.
By U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson – USAF Photographic Archives (image permalink), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3268457