On Thursday, the United State’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, conducted an airstrike against ISIS terrorists from the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS). The airstrike took place as Somalian Puntland Security Forces (PSF) were conducting an operation in a remote location in the Iskushuban area of the Bari region near Timirshe, Somalia. Timirshe is located 90 miles southeast of Bosasso.
“We continue to apply pressure on terrorist groups and assist our Somali partners in disrupting their operations,” BG Miguel Castellanos, AFRICOM’s Deputy Director of Operations, said. “We continue our support to rid Somalia of the likes of ISIS and al-Shabaab.”
AFRICOM reported that the airstrike killed seven ISS terrorists and that no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes.
According to AFRICOM, U.S. forces were in the area in order to advise and assist Somali and partner forces. However, AFRICOM did not report if U.S. troops took an active role in the combat phase of the operation.
This was the 42nd airstrike that the United States has conducted in Somalia this year. It is the first against ISIS; the remaining airstrikes were all conducted against al-Shabaab, according to media reports. According to a report by the Long War Journal, U.S. forces conducted six airstrikes against ISIS in Somalia in 2019.
When the Puntland Security Forces engaged Daesh (as locals call ISIS), a running gun battle lasting several hours took place. The PSF claimed to have killed more than 20 Daesh fighters including foreign fighters and a foreign official. The PSF Facebook page posted some pictures of the battle which showed at least three dead ISIS fighters. The PSF also captured two trucks full of food and explosives, the latter of which has been used for several small-scale terror attacks across Puntland.
ISS released a statement on the battle claiming that it had killed seven American and Puntland Security Forces and wounded many others. It also claimed to have lost seven fighters in the fighting. ISS has frequently overstated the numbers of inflicted casualties.
“Mistruths and lies are the terrorist weapons of choice,” said AFRICOM’s Director of Public Affairs, Col. Chris Karns. “ISIS-Somalia and al-Shabaab have bankrupt narratives and visions of the future. Our partnership to unmask and degrade the capability of these terrorists is essential to security and stability in Somalia.”
Al-Shabaab, which has ties to al-Qaeda, has also been active in the region. The two jihadist groups are competing among themselves in the north-central area of the country. Occasionally, their competition has turned violent.
The loss of several key leaders in combat operations against PSF troops, drone strikes by the U.S., and in fighting against al-Shabaab terrorists has weakened ISS. It has been forced to take refuge in the Puntland mountain where it trains and plans hit-and-run terror attacks.
While ISS fighters in the country are reported to be down to only about 300, al-Shabaab fighters number close to 5,000.
AFRICOM’s released statement claims that they are continuing their fight to help Somalia rid themselves of all terrorist activity. The U.S continues to provide support to Somali efforts and counter violent extremist threats. The challenges in Africa will require African and international solutions. AFRICOM remains committed to working with the U.S.’s African partners, the statement read.