'Violent, ruthless' al-Shabaab leader killed by U.S. strike in Somalia

American forces have been working with Somali government to eradicate terrorist jhadi group

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U.S. military
A U.S. solider in Somalia in February 2020
(Tech. Sgt. Christopher Ruano/ U.S. Air Force)
Last Updated:
April 7, 2020 - 1:22pm

American military forces killed a key al-Shabaab terror group leader in an airstrike in Somalia last week, U.S. Africa Command said Tuesday.

The leader, Yusuf Jiis, was one of three enemy fighters killed in a joint, April 2 strike with the Federal Government of Somalia. The strike took place near Bush Madina, about 135 miles west of the capital city of Mogadishu.

Jiis was a foundational member of al-Shabaab and held key positions within the group, according to AFRICOM.

“This individual was a key leader in the al-Shabaab organization," said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who leads the command. "He was violent, ruthless, and responsible for the loss of many innocent lives. His removal makes Somalia and neighboring countries safer."     

Another AFRICOM official, Army Maj. Gen. William Gayler, said that the terrorist, fundamentalist jihadi group continues to present a significant threat to peace in the region.

“Al-Shabaab remains a disease in Somalia and is an indiscriminate killer of innocent people and their only desire is to brutalize populations inside Somalia and outside of Somalia," said Gayler, the AFRICOM director of operations. "Putting pressure on this network helps contain their ambition and desire to cause harm and destruction."

“Al Shabaab is the largest and most violent of al Qaeda's branches worldwide," Townsend said earlier this year at the African Land Forces Summit in Ethiopia. "They have attacked innocent civilians throughout the region and have a desire to attack Americans and U.S. interests in the world. It’s our job to prevent that.”

The missions against al-Shabaab continue despite the COVID-19 pandemic, AFRICOM leaders said.

“While we might like to pause our operations in Somalia because of the Coronavirus, the leaders of al-Qaeda, al-Shabaab and ISIS have announced that they see this crisis as an opportunity to further their terrorist agenda so we will continue to stand with and support our African partners," Townsend said.                 

Roughly 500 American troops are now in Somalia. Among them are special operations troops who train the Danab Brigade of Somalia’s special forces. Others launch the air strikes.

“American air support is key,” Somalia’s ambassador to the United States, Ali Ahmed, recently said. “The drone attacks have increased under (President) Trump.”