Al Qaeda militants in Somalia planned and prepared “imminent attacks” against U.S. forces there, according to a recent statement from U.S. Africa Command.
The plans prompted a U.S. airstrike just last week against the militants in Somalia, according to the little-noticed Africom statement.
“On June 21, 2016 in southern Somalia U.S. forces conducted a self-defense strike against al-Shabaab, killing three,” said a June 23 Africom statement.
“The operation was conducted after it was assessed the terrorists were planning and preparing to conduct an imminent attack against U.S. forces,” it said.
There are about 50 U.S. forces on the ground in Somalia, in support of partner forces fighting al-Shabaab militants.
The strike comes amid a new assessment by IHS Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Centre that said over the course of 2015 and 2016, al-Shabaab has “been expanding capabilities and increasing the tempo of attacks.”
Al-Shabaab militants recently underscored that threat by storming a hotel in Mogadishu on Saturday, taking guests hostage and killing at least 14. The terrorist group has also claimed responsibility for another attack at another hotel in the capital in early June that killed at least 15 people.
The U.S. has been conducting a steady stream of airstrikes against al-Shabaab over the past several months.
In May, U.S. forces conducted five airstrikes against the terrorist group. One strike was conducted on May 27 against Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, a senior military commander for al-Shabaab.
Another airstrike was conducted on May 13 in southern Somalia against nine al-Shabaab forces, after it was assessed that they were “planning and preparing to conduct an imminent attack against U.S. forces,” Africom said.
“Other similar actions were undertaken on three other occasions in May, including one on May 9 and two on May 12,” Africom said in a June 17 statement.
Africom has typically given little detail on the strikes. On the same day as the May 9 airstrike, a Voice of America report said U.S. troops conducted a joint raid with Africa forces on an al-Shabaab base.