The United States launched an air strike in Somalia that killed more than 150 fighters with the al Qaeda-linked Islamist group al Shabaab following U.S. intelligence on preparations for a large-scale militant attack, the Pentagon said on Monday March 7,2016.
The Saturday strike, using both manned aircraft and unmanned MQ-9 Reaper drones, targeted al Shabaab’s “Raso” training camp, a facility about 120 miles north of the capital Mogadishu, the Pentagon said.
The U.S. military had been monitoring the camp for several weeks before the strike and had gathered intelligence, including about an imminent threat posed by those in the camp to U.S. forces and African Union peacekeepers, officials said.
U.S. Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James described the strike as “defensive” in nature.
“There was intelligence … these fighters would soon be embarking upon missions that would directly impact the U.S. and our partners,” James told reporters.
Two U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the targets were U.S. forces and African Union fighters in Somalia, but declined to offer additional details.
Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said the United States believed the threat was “imminent” and that the fighters were poised to soon depart the camp.
Meanwhile speaking to reuters, Alshabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab confirmed the attacks but said the US had exaggerated the number of causalities.
“The U.S. bombed an area controlled by al Shabaab. But they exaggerated the figure of casualties. We never gather 100 fighters in one spot for security reasons. We know the sky is full of planes,” Musab told Reuters.
He however declined to give the number of casualities.
Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer said the Somali intelligence agency had provided information about the camp to the United States in the run-up to the attack.
“There has to be intelligence on the ground for this to happen. Our intelligence had helped,” Omer said
The al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab was pushed out of Mogadishu by African Union peacekeeping forces in 2011 but has remained a potent antagonist in Somalia, launching frequent attacks in its bid to overthrow the Western-backed government.