US airstrikes in Somalia hits an all time high in 2020
Since the beginning of the year, AFRICOM has announced 39 airstrikes in Somalia. The command announced a total of 36 such attacks from 2009 to 2017, under Obama, peaking in 2016 with 19 declared airstrikes. Last year, under President Donald Trump, the U.S. conducted 63 air attacks in Somalia, the most ever in a single year.
“It’s our command’s responsibility to support our partners so this terrorist group can’t expand and strike the U.S. homeland as its leaders desire to do,” said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Bradford J. Gering, AFRICOM’s deputy director of operations, after the April 3 strike on al-Shabab targets, which was followed by attacks on April 5, 6, 9, and 10. AFRICOM did not respond to a request for further information about the uptick in strikes in time for publication.
“The high tempo of U.S. air and ground operations in Somalia appears to be focused on supporting efforts by Somali government forces and its [African Union Mission in Somalia] allies to dislodge the terror group from its strongholds,” said Chris Woods, the director of Airwars, a U.K.-based airstrike monitoring group. “There are also a significant number of strikes targeting leadership within the terror group.”
The spike in U.S. airstrikes comes as the number of Covid-19 cases in Somalia is similarly rising. On April 8, there were 21 cases of the novel coronavirus in Somalia. As of Wednesday, there were 286. Most of those infected have no history of travel abroad, indicating local transmission of the disease and worrying prospects for the future — especially among the many internally displaced persons, or IDPs, who have lost their homes to the ongoing conflict between al-Shabab and the Federal Government of Somalia, which is backed by the United States.
“There is an increased risk that cases may go undetected or undiagnosed if community transmission begins and becomes widespread,” reads an April 20 report from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “The impact on the 2.6 million IDPs living in more than 2,000 crowded settlements with limited access to health and water, sanitation and hygiene services would be catastrophic