On Monday, the United States carried out drone and airstrikes on al Shabab targets in Somalia, killing more than 150 terrorists, according to the Pentagon. The strikes amount to one of the largest attacks in drone history.
Manned and unmanned drone aircraft struck an al Shabab training camp over the weekend after extensive intelligence gathering on the group’s activities and sites. According to US officials, the group was planning an imminent attack on targets in the region. “We know they were going to be departing the camp and that they posed an imminent threat to U.S. and to Amisom, African Union mission in Somalia forces, that are in Somalia,” stated Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis.
Trainees from the “Raso” training camp, a compound north of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu, posed an imminent threat to Somali and African Union forces in particular. The United States only recently recognized Somalia’s government in January 2013; Somalia’s political infrastructure had been dysfunctional and defunct for years. While corruption and poor governance still enrapture Mogadishu, the government has recently accelerated efforts to reverse the country’s inevitable collapse into a failed state. For the last few months, the Somali government has been working with the African Union to regain territory lost to the terrorist group. At one point, al Shabab colonized 50% of Somalia’s land mass. To this day, the group controls most of southern and central Somalia, establishing in its own form draconian governance of the people it has colonized. The Council on Foreign Relations explains:
In areas it controls, al-Shabab enforces its own harsh interpretation of sharia, prohibiting various types of entertainment, such as movies and music, the sale of khat (a narcotic plant often chewed), smoking, the shaving of beards, and many other “un-Islamic” activities. Stonings and amputations have been meted out as punishment on suspected adulterers and thieves. International rights groups have reported that al-Shabab members have kidnapped young boys from schools and have forced them to fight for the group.
Although the group’s operational command center remains in Somalia, its crude brand of medieval Islamic colonialism and links with al Qaeda have inspired a multitude of barbaric attacks outside of Somalia’s borders. In 2013, the group deployed its jihadist fighters to Kenya, a relatively stable bordering country. There, Al Shabab fighters stormed Naroibi’s Westgate shopping center, killing 68 people in cold blood. The attack was unequivocally informed by Islam; it was a religious crusade. In fact, the terrorists spared the lives of devout Muslims, only slaughtering those unable to recite verses from the Quran.
The group’s most deadly attack however occurred at a university in Kenya, right off the border with Somalia. Last April’s Garissa University massacre left 147 people dead and dozens injured after gunmen selectively butchered Christian students at the brink of dawn during a period of examinations. Al Shabab’s medieval savagery effectively stripped away Kenya’s much needed future engineers, doctors, and professionals.
This weekend’s airstrikes have already degraded the group’s ability to carry out future attacks in the region. No US personnel were stationed on the ground for the airstrikes. Pentagon officials have also noted that no civilians were killed during the attack.