MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militants have for the first time released photos allegedly of a U.S. drone that crashed into their stronghold while on a surveillance mission, sending a stern warning to the military about the operations being carried out against them in the country.
For several months, soldiers have been attached to the Somali National Army [SNA], the troops of the African Union mission and the US African Command have conducted operations against the militants, especially in the Shebelle and Jubba regions, which are considered militant strongholds.
In a statement released on their affiliated media, the militants announced that the drone crashed after being brought down by the group in Balligodle, at least 90 km southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu. The al-Qaeda-linked group did not name the exact date of the incident.
The photos published by the militants showed photos of the drone, which were poorly separated, but there was no evidence that it belonged to the U.S. military, which is happy to use the drones when performing due diligence in the form of surveillance before carrying out an attack on the militants.
In addition to being used for attacks, drones are also synonymous with surveillance missions. The images were released amid allegations that the U.S. military has targeted innocent civilians in their infinitely frequent attacks aimed at downplaying militant Al-Shabaab.
Balligodle Airport hosts the US military in Somalia and is located in the Lower Shabelle region, a region believed to be a stronghold of the militants. The U.S. Army is training special forces called Danab in Somalia, which is involved in deadly search and rescue missions in the war-torn nation.
Last year, the militants targeted the base, but the attack was repulsed by vigilant SNA troops manning the base, leaving 11 militants dead. Footage of Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Omar Diriye, who was released by the militants, led him to condemn the US Army, adding that they are eager to destroy the base.
The United States has close to 500 soldiers in Somalia who are mainly involved in the training and equipment of SNA troops. Nearly two weeks ago, militants attacked a U.S. outpost at Janay Abdalla in Lower Jubba, leaving two SNA officers dead and a U.S. soldier critically wounded.
Since January, the U.S. military has launched a record 46 airstrikes in Somalia, leaving close to 70 militants dead. In a report released by the U.S. African Command, the team also admitted the killings of at least two civilians as security and promised to compensate the families.
Some of the militants who have been killed by the US military include Bashir Qorgab, the man behind the US naval base attack in Kenya earlier this year. Others are Yusuf Jiis, a notorious operator in Lower Shebelle and Abdulkadir Commandos, who was killed two weeks ago.
The U.S. military has also made a special request to the Department of Defense for permission to carry airstrikes in northeastern Kenya and the coastal strip of the East African nation. The two regions have been targeted by the militants for almost a decade now.
Al-Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the fragile UN-backed Somalia government, but their efforts are yet to bear fruit. The UN believes the group has close to 7,000 active fighters, but it remains poorly exposed after thousands were jumped off due to endless internal wars.