US drone strikes target Al-Shabaab fighters after assist mission turned in to battle in West of Mogadishu
U.S. Special Operations called in an airstrike on Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia Thursday when a mission to help Ugandan forces the American troops were accompanying turned into an unexpected battle.
The incident occurred west of Mogadishu, according to U.S. military officials familiar with reports from the scene. No U.S. troops were wounded in what quickly turned into a firefight between Ugandan forces and Al-Shabaab militants.
Initial reports from the field, details of which were shared with CNN, suggested the U.S. special forces were involved in the firefight. But military officials said later Thursday that further information made clear the U.S. troops weren’t involved in the firefight.
Ugandan troops, who are in the country as part of African forces backing the Somali government, had been called in to clear an illegal checkpoint being run by Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia. The Ugandans came under fire from an estimated 20 militants, the officials said.
When the Ugandans were unable to completely suppress the Al-Shabaab fire, the U.S. “advise and assist” team, which was in a concealed position nearby, called in an airstrike on the checkpoint.
The U.S. forces stayed in concealed positions and didn’t fire their weapons. The Ugandans engaged the militants in a firefight.
Five militants were believed killed by the U.S. airstrike, the officials said.
The U.S. maintains a force of about 50 troops in Somalia to advise and assist both Somali and other African forces operating in Somalia. They are not expected to be in combat but are prepared if they come under fire, one of the officials said. Helicopters, drones and manned aircraft are available for quick reaction airstrikes, the official noted.