Somalia seeks increased drone strikes against Al-Shabab

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – The Somali government is intensifying its efforts to defeat the Al-Shabab militant group and is calling for increased drone strikes against the group.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has urged the Somali National Forces and allied regional forces to focus on defeating the group. He has indicated that he is willing to use any available tools to eliminate Al-Shabab.

The government sees drone strikes as crucial in eliminating Al-Shabab hideouts and recently gathered Federal State leaders in the capital to re-establish unity in the fight against the group.

US Africa Command on December 18 said it had killed 15 key leaders of al Shabab in a drone strike at the “request of the Federal Government of Somalia,” Mogadishu released images of the dead Shabab leaders to the public.

The US Africa Command has launched at least 220 airstrikes on Al-Shabab in Somalia over the past decade, with varying levels of success.

While the military precision of these strikes has effectively neutralized Al-Shabab targets, there have also been civilian casualties.

In response to these concerns, President Mohamud has emphasized the importance of avoiding civilian casualties, stating in an interview with Marc Lamont Hill of Upfront on Al-Jazeera that “we are doing everything we can to avoid civilian casualties…and for the last six months that these operations are going on, we succeeded in that.”

Still, Amnesty International has questioned the accuracy of such claims, stating that the data provided by the US Africa Command may have weaknesses.

That situation reports on civilian casualties were only launched in 2020 following years of complaints.

Africom has also been accused of labeling every casualty as a terrorist or underreporting civilian casualties, even when attacks occur in residential areas.

Finding a clear “war zone” in Somalia where Al-Shabab has infiltrated communities makes it difficult to conduct airstrikes precisely.

In response to these concerns, President Joe Biden limited drone strikes to active war zones when he took office and required the White House to approve each strike.

Al-Shabab is a militant group that operates in Somalia and the broader East Africa region. It was initially formed as a radical offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, a group that briefly held power in Somalia in 2006.

Al-Shabab has been designated as a terrorist group by the US and other countries. It has carried out numerous attacks in Somalia and the region, including bombings, assassinations, and kidnappings.

The group has also been known to impose strict Islamic law, or sharia, in areas under its control.

Al-Shabab has a stated goal of establishing an Islamic state in Somalia and has frequently targeted government officials, foreign aid workers, and other perceived enemies.

The group has also claimed responsibility for several high-profile attacks outside of Somalia, including the 2013 Westgate Mall attack in Kenya and the 2015 Garissa University College attack in Kenya.

Over the years, Al-Shabab has faced a series of military offensives by the Somali government and its allies, including the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Despite these efforts, the group has continued to carry out attacks and remains a significant threat in the region.

It remains to be seen how effective these efforts will be in bringing an end to the group’s activities in the country.