President Donald Trump is ramping up airstrikes in Somalia against Al Qaeda's third largest affiliate, al-Shabaab, the Pentagon announced Thursday. The new authority ends Obama-era restrictions on drone strikes in Somalia. The top U.S. general for Africa told reporters on Friday that he had requested the authority to conduct more strikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia. "It's very important and very helpful for us to have little more flexibility, a little bit more timeliness, in terms of decision-making process and it'll allow us to give -- in fact, counter ISIS or in our case in Somalia, al-Shabaab," said Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, the head of U.S. Africa Command. Last year, a Somali airliner was bombed using a laptop computer in an attack claimed by al-Shabaab, one of the reasons the Dept. of Homeland Security earlier this month banned electronics larger than cell phones from flights to the United States from some majority-Muslim nations.
Recruits belonging to Somalia's al Shabaab are seen near Mogadishu. The Pentagon announced in a statement Thursday there are now "more than" 500 US troops on the ground in Somalia. A significant increase from early 2014 when roughly two dozen troops arrived for the first time since 1993 and the Black Hawk Down incident. US Africa Command says there have been 28 airstrikes this year, mostly from drones against al-Shabaab, long considered the greatest terror threat in Africa. At a press conference Thursday at the Pentagon, a top defense official denied any "ramp-up."
The U.S. military carried out another round of drone strikes in Somalia Wednesday. A trio of drone strikes hit the Al Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab terror group killed six militants, U.S. Africa Command announced. The strikes took place 160 miles south of the capital, Mogadishu. They came after two separate drones strikes last week. Hundreds of U.S. soldiers have returned to Somalia for the first time since the "Black Hawk Down" incident in the early 1990s.
A United States drone strike in Somalia killed one al-Shabab militant Saturday, U.S. military officials announced on Monday. The Department of Defense conducted the strike in southern Somalia in coordination with regional partners, and no civilian casualties were reported, officials said. "Al-Shabab has pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda and is dedicated to providing safe haven for terrorist attacks throughout the world. Al-Shabab has publicly committed to planning and conducting attacks against the U.S. and our allies," U.S. Africa Command said in statement to Fox News. A firefighter tries to extinguish fire after an attack on a restaurant by the militant group al Shabaab.
An Al Qaeda affiliate has seized control of uranium mines in Africa with the intent of supplying the material to Iran, according to a diplomatic letter from a top Somali official appealing to the U.S. for "immediate military assistance." The letter, reviewed by Fox News, was addressed to U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Stephen Schwartz. Somalia's Ambassador to the U.S. Ahmed Awad confirmed to Fox News on Thursday that the letter "has indeed been issued" by Minister of Foreign Affairs Yusuf Garaad Omar, whose signature is on the document. The Aug. 11-dated letter delivered an urgent warning to the U.S. that the al-Shabaab terror network has linked up with the regional ISIS faction and is "capturing territory" in the central part of the country. 'Every day that passes without intervention provides America's enemies with additional material for nuclear weapons.' "This issue can be summed up in a single word: uranium," the letter said.