By Abdulkadir Khalif
Thursday May 25, 2023
US Air Force F-15 fighter jet. A US airstrike in Somalia on May 20, 2023 injured an Al-Shabaab leader. File | AFP
The Somali Ministry of Information released a statement on Tuesday claiming that an al-Shabaab official had been wounded in Jilib, a town 400km south of Mogadishu.The man, known as Moalim Osman to Al-Shabaab militants, is said to have played an important role in the extremist group, including luring foreign fighters to join the ranks of the extremist movement.
The statement named the wounded Al-Shabaab official as Osman Mohamed Abdi, reportedly in charge of foreign affairs for the extremist group, often referred to as Khawarij (a group practising a deviant sect of Islam).
"This wounded man is a criminal and is responsible for recruiting fighters from outside Somalia to join the group," the Somali government statement said.
Al-Shabaab officially refers to the foreigners in its ranks as Al-Muhajirin Al-Mujahidin (migrant jihadists).
The government said the wounding of Osman Mohamed Abdi was achieved through cooperation between the national army and international partners. The international partners in the war against Al-Shabaab are often referred to as the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (Africom) and the United States Africa Command.
On Tuesday May 23, Africom issued an update on the counter-terrorism operation in Somalia.
"In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia, Africom conducted an airstrike against the al-Shabaab militant network on 20 May," the Stuttgart, Germany-based US force said.
It added that the strike took place in Jilib (town), Somalia, and that no civilian casualties were reported.
"Following a comprehensive battle damage assessment, USAFRICOM estimates that one al-Shabaab fighter was injured as a result of the operation." The statement said.
"It is the command's assessment that no civilians were injured or killed."
So far, statements from the Somali government and USAFRICOM have shed light on the nature of Moalim Osman's wounds and the extent of his injuries.
The Somali Ministry of Information said the airstrike hit a house where the al-Shabaab leader was hiding.
Other media reported that Moalim Osman had also acted as the terrorist group's chief of defence.
Somali government forces have stepped up attacks on al-Shabaab in partnership with local vigilante groups known locally as Macawisley (Moawisley means shepherds wearing wrap-around garments).
On other occasions, the army conducts operations against the terrorists in partnership with peacekeepers operating under the auspices of the African Union Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS).
But when air strikes are needed, it is USAFRICOM that supports the Somali army.
The town of Jilib is in Middle Jubba, the only region in Somalia that is completely controlled by al-Shabaab, including the town of Bu'ale, its capital.