Up to 73 al Shabaab fighters were killed in a confirmed retaliatory strike conducted by US Africa Command.
On the same day as the attack, AFRICOM reported that it had “conducted an airstrike targeting militants near Jilib, Middle Juba Region, Somalia, on January 19, 2019.”
The airstrike was apparently conducted after a large contingent of al-Shabaab forces attacked Somali National Army Forces. According to AP, Al-Shabaab claims “its attack on two Somali army bases killed at least 41 soldiers”. The Somali National Army instead said that at least eight of its soldiers had died.
AFP gave the location of those attacks as the Bar Sanjuni area near the port city of Kismayo. It suggested that the strikes took place there, conducted by helicopters: “Sources at nearby villages said the militants looted the camp and took a military vehicle. ‘Al-Shabaab fighters secured control of the base and looted everything. They have set fire to the arms depots and took a military vehicle, but there were two choppers which carried out air strikes during the attack,’ traditional elder Hassan Rashid told AFP.”
According to Voice of America, the strike instead occurred on a convoy of al Shabaab vehicles between Araare Bridge and Muse Haji after they had left the Bar Sanjuni base: “About an hour after the militants left the base, an airstrike carried out by unidentified foreign forces supporting the Somali military killed more than 60 militants. At least two missiles hit the militants driving away in a military truck and two Toyota pickup truck they seized from the base, officials said. ‘On their way back, after the defeat in the battle for the military base, an airstrike hit the militants, killing all those in three vehicles, estimated to have been more than 60,’ a Somali military official familiar with the airstrike told VOA on the condition of anonymity.”
Major setback for Al-Shabaab on Saturday as the group lost scores of fighters near Araare bridge following airstrikes. Military sources say over 70 were killed after missiles hit a truck carrying the militants. Photos, video obtained show burning, charred bodies of militants. pic.twitter.com/NoyuUA1E9g
— Harun Maruf (@HarunMaruf) January 19, 2019
“We managed to kill at least 75 Shebab militants after they attacked us and many others were wounded, and we want to talk about this victory to our people. We, the Somali army with our international partners will pursue the Shebab militants until victory”, Somali army officer Hassan Aden Mohamed told AFP.
The US military command also asserted that “at this time we assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.” So far there are no known reports of civilian harm relating to this event.
According to AFRICOM “this airstrike killed 52 militants.” However, the Associated Press reported that Ethiopian media gave different numbers: “state television cited the defense ministry as saying more than 60 Shabab fighters had been killed in the airstrike and that four vehicles loaded with explosives had been ‘destroyed.'”
AP also reported that AFRICOM did not clarify whether any Somali or American forces were killed or injured. The news agency described the strike as the “deadliest” in recent months.
Separately, the New York Times noted: “A Somali intelligence officer told the New York Times (…) the group had been amassing fighters for more than a week in attempts to launch a major attack against Somali and Kenyan forces and disrupt their planned offensive. The officer said some 400 militants, including foreign ones and suicide car bombers, had been prepared.”
In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM again confirmed it had struck on this date what it says were al Shabaab fighters, in the vicinity of Jilib.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
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Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a convoy that just departed from a base near Baar Sanguni and was travelling between Araare crossing and the village of Muse Haji. The coordinates for the road between Araare crossing and Muse Haji are: 0.015882, 42.665664.
United States Armed Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
To support the Federal Government of Somalia's continued efforts to degrade al-Shabaab, U.S. forces conducted an airstrike targeting militants near Jilib, Middle Juba Region, Somalia, on January 19, 2019.
U.S. Africa Command conducted the airstrike in response to an attack by a large group of al-Shabaab militants against Somali National Army Forces.
We currently assess this airstrike killed fifty-two (52) militants.
At this time we assess no civilians were injured or killed in this airstrike.
Alongside our Somali and international partners, we are committed to preventing al-Shabaab from taking advantage of safe havens from which they can build capacity and attack the people of Somalia. In particular, the group uses portions of southern and central Somalia to plot and direct terror attacks, steal humanitarian aid, extort the local populace to fund its operations, and shelter radical terrorists.
U.S. Africa Command will continue to work with its partners to transfer the responsibility for long-term security in Somalia from AMISOM to the Federal Government of Somalia and its Member States, and U.S. forces will use all effective and appropriate methods to protect the Somali people, including partnered military counter-terror operations with the Federal Government of Somalia, AMISOM and Somali National Army forces.