More than 100 Al-Shabaab militants including 20 commanders are believed to have been killed in southern Somalia by U.S. air strikes early Saturday, residents and officials said.
The residents and security officers said the warplanes targeted the militants’ hideouts in Wargaduud and El-Adde where several Kenyan soldiers were killed by Al-Shabaab militants in January 2016.
Among senior Al-Shabaab commanders killed are Abdirahman Fillow and Abdirahman Ben Dutie in the dawn attack that also destroyed two vehicles bound explosive devices (VBIED) at Wargaduud. Dutie is from Marehanrer Dalal section.
“Yesterday (Friday) night at Wargaduud and El-Adde, U.S. airstrikes killed 20 Al-Shabaab commanders among them Abdirahman Fillow and about 85 militants,” said a security official who declined to be identified.
“The strike happened at 2 a.m. The siege continues,” he added. Residents in El-Adde reported hearing the sound of explosions believed to be air strikes just after Friday midnight.
“There was heavy bombardment on Al-Shabaab base near El-Adde town targeting Al-Shabaab base but we don’t know the number of casualties. We heard sounds of the jets and then bombs,” said one of the residents.
The bombardment came after U.S. military officials confirmed that its soldiers have deployed to Somalia to train and equip Somali and AMISOM forces fighting extremism in Somalia.
The team is reportedly carrying out a train-and-equip mission that is expected to last through the end of September, according to American officials.
The U.S. soldiers will join the small number of U.S. special operations forces already there providing counterterrorism support to local forces battling Al-Shabaab.
The U.S. maintains a small force unit of about 50 troops in Somalia mainly to advise and assist Somalia and AMISOM troops battling Al-Shabaab militants.
Though they are not in Somalia to conduct combat operations, when called in, their helicopters, drones and manned aircraft are available for quick reaction air strikes.
U.S. President Donald Trump in March granted additional authority to U.S. Africa Command to conduct counterterrorism airstrikes against the terror group.
The bombardment came after Kenyan security agents have been put on alert following intelligence reports at least nine Kenyan terrorists who had joined Al-Shabaab terror group in Somalia could be headed back to the country to launch attacks.
The Kenyans are moving back to Kenya following sustained attacks by the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF) who are part of the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somalia National Army (SNA).
Police have urged Kenyans to be wary of the suspects and warned they could be in the country and planning an attack.
Over the past months KDF troops have killed at least 90 Al-Shabaab terrorists in attacks in Somalia, which has reportedly weakened the group’s capability.