Several days after the events, US Africa Command press released that it had conducted five airstrikes in the vicinity of Janaale during March 16th-17th. Somali state media and government reported the same strikes but said they took place on March 15th-16th.
AFRICOM said the actions were in support of ground operations by Somalia forces, while noting that “U.S. forces were in the area when these airstrikes occurred in order to advise and assist Somali and partner forces.”
Unusually, the US gave no enemy casualty figures for the strikes – while noting that “These precision airstrikes targeted members of the al-Qaida-aligned terrorist network as they massed and maneuvered in the vicinity of an ongoing Somali-led ground operation.”
Sonna state media – citing the Ministry of Information – gave slightly different information. It said the attacks had taken place on March 15th-16th – a day earlier. It also stated that “the strikes left several al-Shabaab members killed and significantly reduced the group’s ability to conduct operations against SNA and AMISOM forces in Janale effectively.”
Airwars has set the minimum casualty range at two for this and each of the other four events during the battle for Janaale – and will update as more accurate information becomes available.
The strikes came during a major ground operation by the SNA and AMISOM, supported by US troops, to capture Janaale from the terror group al Shabaab. Early reports made no mention of the US role, focusing instead on the actions of Somali and Ugandan troops.
Halgan Media gave the following description of the battle: “Six unmarked helicopters were spotted hovering over the town of Janaale shortly before the assault began. A joint contingent of Somali, US and AMISOM forces stationed nearby later began the ground assault.
“The joint contingent were traveling in 47 [vehicles] while in route to the Al Shabaab controlled town of Janaale according to sources. Upon reaching the periphery of the town, the Somali and allied Foreign forces came under heavy fire from Al Shabaab militants, sparking fierce clashes. The coalition forces where able to withstand the hail of Al Shabaab bullets and penetrate the Militants line of defense. The Somali, US, and AMISOM forces entered the town of Janaale shortly after the clashes.
“Upon entering the town a military convoy carrying the coalition forces struck a roadside bomb. Per sources the vehicle was severely damaged and engulfed in flames. The casualties from that blast still remain unknown. The armed group Al Shabaab withdrew from the town shortly after the encounter, as the strategic town of Janaale fell to coalition forces. The expulsion of Al Shabaab from Janaale comes five years after Militants previously overran the town after killing dozens of Ugandan troops.”
AFRICOM later said it had killed 15 Al Shabaab militants in the strikes. The number is reflected across the five incidents for the strikes.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
Sources (8) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention a strike in the vicinity of Janaale, for which, due to limited satellite imagery and information available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further. The coordinates for Janaale are: 1.80953, 44.69345
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
As part of an African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali National Army operation, and in coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. Africa Command conducted five airstrikes against al-Shabaab terrorists near Janaale, Somalia, March 16-17.
These precision airstrikes targeted members of the al-Qaida-aligned terrorist network as they massed and maneuvered in the vicinity of an ongoing Somali-led ground operation.
"We protect and remain committed to our partners - plain and simple," said Maj. Gen. William Gayler, director of operations, U.S. Africa Command. "We eliminated terrorists posing a direct and immediate threat, allowing our African partners to maintain the momentum on the ground."
Somali security forces continue to lead operations alongside AMISOM forces to increase security and seize ground from al-Shabaab.
Currently, we assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of these airstrikes.
U.S. forces were in the area when these airstrikes occurred in order to advise and assist Somali and partner forces.
U.S. Africa Command continues to support the Government of Somalia by strengthening its security forces and promoting regional security, stability and prosperity. Al-Shabaab continues to conduct attacks in East Africa and will continue to threaten American and western interests in the region.
Concurrently, the command is building enduring relationships and strategic alliances in East Africa necessary to address future challenges and malign activity by near-peer competitors.
The U.S., by virtue of our capabilities, influence, and credibility, is uniquely postured to support Somali efforts and counter violent extremist threats.