The United States carried out two airstrikes targeting Islamic State militants in northeastern Somalia, the US military said on Friday, believed to be the first such strikes against the militant group in the country. In a statement, US Africa Command said the first strike was carried out at midnight local time in Somalia on November 3 and another one at 11 am.
“Several terrorists” were killed in the strikes, the statement said, adding they were conducted in coordination with Somalia’s government. Islamic State has been gathering recruits in the region, although experts say the scale of its force is unclear and it remains a small player compared to al Shabaab.
Last month, a group loyal to Islamic State seized a small port town in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region, the first town it has taken since emerging a year ago. The group, which refers to itself simply as Islamic State, is a rival to the larger al Shabaab force, which is linked to Islamic State’s rival al Qaeda and once controlled much of Somalia.
The United States has occasionally carried out strikes against al Shabaab militants in Somalia, which retains a strong presence in parts of the south and center and carries out gun and bomb attacks. More than 350 people were killed in twin bombings in the Somali capital Mogadishu last month, the deadliest attack in the country’s history.