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US Special Forces Call In Air Strike Against Al-Shabaab In Somalia

REUTERS/Feisal Omar

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter

A contingent of U.S. Army Special Forces called in an air strike on al-Shabaab terrorists in Somalia Thursday after what was supposed to be a support mission quickly turned into a deadly battle.

The conflict erupted after a group of Ugandan forces tasked with clearing an al-Shabaab check point came under fire by around 20 enemy terrorists just west of the Somalian capital of Mogadishu, reported CNN’s Barbara Starr. With the Ugandans unable to destroy the terrorist unit alone, Special Forces operators stationed nearby called in an air strike to aid them in the fight. It is believed around five al-Shabaab personnel were killed in the fight, while the U.S. forces suffered no casualties.

Reports initially claimed U.S. forces engaged in a firefight with the al-Shabaab unit, however, the Pentagon has since clarified U.S. personnel did not directly fire upon the enemy.

Currently, the U.S. maintains a small force of around 50 Special Forces personnel in Somalia. Technically speaking, the group is there to operate in an “advise and assist” role, though Thursday’s strike is one of many prior instances of the U.S. support role evolving into a more combat-oriented nature. Special Forces, accompanying Somalian forces, conducted an offensive raid in early March targeting an al-Shabaab camp in southern Somalia. Earlier that week, U.S. forces engaged in an air strike on an al-Shabaab camp which neutralized around 150 terrorists.

Al-Shabaab has long been a disruptive force in Somalia, which has been widely regarded as a failed state with several groups jockeying for political power. The terrorist organization is a known al-Qaida affiliate, though internal disagreements have led to a splinter group allying itself with Islamic State in December.

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