U.S. forces conducted airstrikes Friday in Somalia against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, their first against the terrorist group in that country.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) said Friday that U.S. forces conducted two separate strikes in Somalia, killing “several” ISIS members.
The first strike happened at about midnight local time, while the second happened at about 11 a.m., according to AFRICOM.
“U.S. forces will continue to use all authorized and appropriate measures to protect Americans and to disable terrorist threats,” AFRICOM said in a statement. “This includes partnering with [African Union Mission to Somalia] and Somali National Security Forces (SNSF); targeting terrorists, their training camps and safe havens throughout Somalia, the region and around the world.”
The statement provided no additional details of the strikes, saying that AFRICOM is currently assessing the results.
A Somali security official told The Associated Press that at least six missiles struck in Buqa, a remote mountainous village about 37 miles north of Qandala town in the northern state of Puntland. The airstrike may have targeted top leaders of the group, the official added.
U.S. forces have been helping local forces fight the al Qaeda-affiliated al Shabaab for years. U.S. airstrikes against al Shabaab have stepped up this year after President Trump granted a request from AFRICOM’s commander to give commanders more authority to conduct airstrikes and raids against al Shabaab without high-level, interagency reviews.
The ISIS-linked fighters split off from al Shabaab and have been posing a growing threat in Puntland. In May, ISIS claimed responsibility for a deadly suicide bombing there, its first in Somalia.
U.S. officials and lawmakers have warned in recent weeks that the fight against ISIS is poised to move into Africa as the terrorist group loses its last footholds in Iraq and Syria. ISIS has already been ousted from its one-time de facto capitals of Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria.
The warnings came after four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger during an ambush by ISIS-affiliated militants.
U.S. forces also carried out several airstrikes in September against ISIS in Libya, which U.S. and Libyan forces ousted from its stronghold in Sirte in 2016.