More authority for US military to attack Somali militants

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The White House has granted the US military broader authority to carry out strikes in Somalia against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants, the Pentagon said.

Last Friday, the head of US forces in Africa said greater ability to fight militants would lead to more flexibility and quicker targeting.

Al Shabaab has been able to carry out deadly bombings despite losing most of its territory to African Union peacekeepers supporting the Somali government. The group’s insurgency aims to drive out the peacekeepers, topple Somalia’s western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islam on the Horn of Africa state.

The United States has a small presence in Somalia and is allowed to carry out strikes in defence of partnered forces.

US defence officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said parts of Somalia had been declared an “area of active hostilities” for at least 180 days by the White House on Wednesday. Mogadishu was not included.

This broader authority would allow the United States to carry out offensive strikes against al Shabaab militants even if militants were not attacking partnered forces, the officials said.

In a statement, the Pentagon said President Donald Trump had approved a request for “additional precision fire in support of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces.”
“The additional support provided by this authority will help deny al-Shabaab safe havens from which it could attack US citizens or interests in the region,” Pentagon spokesman Captain Jeff Davis said in the statement.