US strikes Shabaab outside Somali capital

US forces interdicted a Shabaab car bomb intended for Somalia’s capital. This marks the thirdtime the United States has conducted a strike in order to prevent an imminent car bomb attack on the capital in the past month. It is also the first publicized US counterterrorism strike in 2018.

In the early hours of Jan. 2, US forces hit the vehicle approximately 50 km west of Mogadishu. The assault killed two Shabaab fighters and destroyed the vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED), or suicide car bomb, which was intended for Somalia’s capital, according to the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) press release.

Shabaab is al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa and Somalia. It has maintained a persistent insurgency and has controlled territory in both southern and central Somalia for well over a decade. Shabaab uses its safe havens in Somalia to attack the fledgeling Somali government and neighboring countries. It has also plotted attacks against the West.

The US military launched a record 35 counterterrorism strikes in Somalia in 2017, outpacing the combined strikes of the entire previous air campaign, which began in 2007. The rise can be partly explained by loosened restrictions. In Mar. 2017, President Trump signed off on greater authorities in Somalia based on heightened threat assessments from the Departments of Defense and State.

Data on US counterterrorism strikes in Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, and Libya is regularly updated on the US strikes page.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Alexandra Gutowski is a military affairs analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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