For over a decade, the United States has been engaged in an intensifying air campaign in Somalia that has been primarily focused on the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab.
Two airstrikes in the month of April targeted Islamic State militants operating in the country, the first time that U.S. airpower has been used against ISIS in Somalia since November 2017.
“Removing these extremists impacts ISIS-Somalia’s ability to terrorize innocent Somalis in the region and it creates confusion within the terrorist network,” said Major General Gregg Olson, U.S. Africa Command’s (AFRICOM) director of operations.
The first airstrike happened on April 14th and killed Abdulhakim Dhuqub, the deputy leader of the Islamic State in Somalia. The second airstrike took place on April 26th and targeted Islamic State fighters as they “staged in a remote location in Northern Somalia.”
The United States has carried out airstrikes in Somalia every year since 2007. The number of airstrikes did not go over three in a year until 2016, when the U.S. targeted al-Shabaab fifteen times that year. The number of airstrikes has steadily increased since, with 35 in 2017 (including four against ISIS) and 47 in 2018. There have been 34 confirmed U.S. airstrikes in Somalia so far in 2019, including the two April strikes against the Islamic State. The U.S. is currently on pace for 130 airstrikes in 2019, triple the number of airstrikes in a year in Somalia.
The Islamic State’s network in Somalia is limited in size but still dangerous. They have rivaled al-Shabaab in Somalia, with the al-Qaeda-linked group controlling as much as 25 percent of the country.