Amid Syria's five-year-old civil war and Iraq's push to expel the Islamic State group from its major cities, President Barack Obama has quietly reneged on promises of "no boots on the ground" in recent years. A campaign involving private contractors, drone strikes and up to 300 U.S. Special Operations troops against the al Qaeda offshoot group al-Shabab has been escalating there over the past year, the New York Times reported Sunday, citing "senior American military officials." Somalia, along with Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, isn't alone when it comes to American military involvement. On Thursday, Oct. 13, the U.S. engaged in direct military action with Somalia's neighbor, Yemen, entering into a civil war there between the Yemeni government and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
A suspected U.S. drone strike killed four members of al Qaeda's Yemen branch, including a local commander, two unidentified officials in Yemen said Saturday. On Thursday, a drone strike on a vehicle in al-Bayda province in central Yemen killed a senior AQAP leader known as Abdallah al-Sanaani. The U.S. has carried out drone strikes to target the Islamist militant group that has been exploiting Yemen's civil war, which has left at least 10,000 dead since fighting escalated in March 2015. The U.S. has targeted AQAP many times in recent years, and in 2011, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric, who had reportedly become an al Qaeda leader in Yemen, was killed in an airstrike.
Yemeni forces backed by Apache helicopters from a Saudi-led coalition wrested the city of Houta from al Qaeda fighters after a gun battle on Friday morning, a local military official said. Their recapture of Houta, the regional capital of Lahj province which has been held by the militants since last summer, is one of the embattled Yemeni government's most important inroads yet against al Qaeda forces who have taken advantage of more than a year of war to seize territory. Government troops began their attack at daybreak and succeeded after several hours of air strikes and heavy combat, the military official told Reuters. Until the attack on Houta, AQAP has suffered few territorial losses despite a stepped-up American campaign of air strikes and drone attacks on its bases.
One of the top leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated terror organization in Somalia was killed Thursday when the U.S. military launched an airstrike from a drone, the Pentagon says. The al-Shabab official, Hassan Ali Dhoore, was specifically targeted by U.S. forces for his alleged role in two separate attacks in the capital city of Mogadishu, according to a U.S. Defense Department statement Friday. Al-Shabab denied the U.S. account, but the Somali prime minister's office confirmed the airstrike. Al-Shabab, an Islamic extremist group of militants, has been terrorizing the region for about the past decade and typically targets the Somali government, as exemplified by Thursday's suicide bombing that took place as the assailant hugged a local official.
Drone attacks killed eight men suspected of belonging to al Qaeda in southern Yemen on Saturday night, local residents said, as a U.S. campaign against the militant group goes on amid a wider civil war in the country. Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has taken advantage of a war pitting the Iran-allied Houthis against forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to grab territory and operate more openly. The United States has kept up a drone campaign against the militants, although it evacuated the last of its military and intelligence personnel from Yemen in March last year. At least 50 al Qaeda militants were killed in a U.S. air strike on an al Qaeda training camp in the mountains of southern Yemen, medics and a local official said on March 22.