Somali intelligence officials said yesterday the largest United States military airstrike against al-Shabab extremists in Somalia in nearly a year largely destroyed a training camp where recruits were preparing to graduate and killed more fighters than the U.S. announced.
Two officials told The Associated Press that several missiles were fired by two unmanned U.S. drones. Some of the freshly trained al-Shabab recruits were “burnt beyond recognition” and the death toll exceeds 75, one official said. The U.S. Africa Command on Tuesday said about 60 extremists had been killed.
The U.S. said the strike was meant to deny the al-Qaida-linked extremist group, the deadliest in sub-Saharan Africa, the ability to reconsolidate.
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Al-Shabab has several thousands of fighters and has proven to be resilient over the years, carrying out suicide bombings on high-profile targets in the capital, Mogadishu, and other cities as well as more conventional attacks against Somali, U.S. and African Union forces.
Some of the al-Shabab fighters killed in the U.S. airstrike, who had gone through months of training, were being prepared to carry out suicide bombings on Somali and AU bases while others were foot soldiers meant for complex attacks across central and southern Somalia, one of the Somali intelligence officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters. The U.S. airstrike outside the al-Shabab-controlled seaside community of Harardere in Mudug province in Somalia’s central region was the deadliest since one on Nov. 21, 2017, against a camp killed about 100 al-Shabab fighters.