US ramps up efforts to target al-Shabaab in Somalia

Trump approves 'additional precision fires', Pentagon says

US ramps up efforts to target al-Shabaab in Somalia FILE PHOTO

By Michael Hernandez


President Donald Trump on Thursday authorized the Pentagon to carry out a more robust air campaign against al-Shabaab in Somalia.

"The President has approved a Department of Defense proposal to provide additional precision fires in support of African Union Mission in Somalia," the Pentagon said in a statement.

Spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the additional powers "will help deny al-Shabaab safe havens from which it could attack U.S. citizens or U.S. interests in the region."

Specifically, the new authorities will help the U.S.'s local partners "increase pressure on al-Shabaab" while reducing threats to those forces, the Pentagon said.

Al-Shabaab is a militant Salafist group linked to al-Qaeda. In 2012, the group's former leader, Mukhtar Abu al-Zubair, said the east African terror group pledged fealty to al-Qaeda, an announcement welcomed by al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Al-Zubair was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2014.

His fighters have carried out a number of attacks inside Somalia in a bid to topple the internationally-recognized federal government, as well as extraterritorial attacks, particularly in Kenya.

In January dozens of Kenyan troops were killed in an al-Shabaab raid on a Kenyan military base. The group's militants carried out an attack at a university that slaughtered nearly 150 victims in 2015, and an attack on a mall in 2013 killed more than 60 people.

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