US-backed Somalia commandos kill 4 Al-Shabab extremists

Somali and US commandos stormed a camp for Al-Shabab extremists and killed at least four of the fighters.(Reuters)
Updated 19 January 2018
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US-backed Somalia commandos kill 4 Al-Shabab extremists

MOGADISHU: Somali and US commandos stormed a camp for Al-Shabab extremist fighters in an overnight raid, killing at least four of the fighters and rescuing child conscripts, a Somali intelligence official said Friday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said special forces raided the camp in Jame’o village in Middle Shabelle region. A local commander was among those killed, he said.
A second official confirmed the raid, which was carried out with the support of helicopters that later evacuated the young recruits.
Human Rights Watch earlier in the week accused Al-Shabab of the forced recruitment of hundreds of children in recent months. The recruitment of children is a long-standing practice of the Al-Qaeda-linked group which faces growing military pressure across south and central Somalia.
It was not immediately clear how many children were rescued during the overnight raid.
Also on Friday, the US military said it had carried out an airstrike in Somalia that killed four members of the Al-Shabab extremist group.
A statement from the US Africa Command said the strike was carried out Thursday about 50 kilometers (31 miles) northwest of the port city of Kismayo. The statement said no civilians were killed.
The US military carried out more than 30 drone strikes last year in the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation after President Donald Trump approved expanded military efforts against Al-Shabab.
The extremist group was blamed for the October truck bombing in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, that killed 512 people. Thursday’s US airstrike was the first since one early this month that killed two Al-Shabab extremists and destroyed a vehicle carrying explosives, “preventing it from being used against the people in Mogadishu.”
Last year, Somalia’s Somali-American president vowed that his government would drive the extremist group out of the country.


Taliban warn Kabul residents to ‘keep away’ ahead of attacks

Updated 21 May 2018
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Taliban warn Kabul residents to ‘keep away’ ahead of attacks

  • The militant group has issued such warnings to civilians before, including during a failed attempt to take the western city of Farah last week
  • The Taliban are stepping up their Al Khandaq spring offensive in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s February offer of peace talks.

KABUL: The Taliban warned Kabul residents Monday to avoid “military centers” in the heavily fortified city, saying they are planning more attacks in the capital where civilians have long taken the brunt of the casualties.
The militant group has issued such warnings to civilians before, including during a failed attempt to take the western city of Farah last week, but it is believed to be the first time they have singled out Kabul.
The warning comes after the United Nations said the war-weary capital — where the Daesh group is also stepping up its attacks — is already the deadliest place in the country for civilians.
The Taliban said they are planning more attacks on “the enemy’s military and intelligence centers” as part of an annual spring offensive.
“Therefore, to avoid civilian casualties and only cause damage to enemy military, we are asking Kabul residents to keep away... We don’t want even a single innocent civilian to be killed,” a statement published online said.
The group did not define what was meant by “military and intelligence centers.”
Such targets are difficult to avoid given the overcrowded city is the heart of the country’s intelligence, government and military operations and also plagued by traffic jams due to ubiquitous checkpoints and barriers.
“Any attacks or explosions, even a small one, would cause civilian casualties because military installations are located in the center of the city near people’s houses,” political and military analyst Nik Mohammad told AFP.
The Taliban’s statement was pure propaganda, he said, adding that if they fight in the cities “you will definitely kill civilians, there is no way to avoid that.”
The Taliban are stepping up their Al Khandaq spring offensive in an apparent rejection of calls for the militants to take up the Afghan government’s February offer of peace talks.
The group portrays itself as taking care to avoid civilian casualties, but has claimed attacks such as a massive bomb hidden in an ambulance in January which detonated in a crowded street and killed more than 100 people.
The extremists’ chilling ability to hit at the heart of the country despite increased police checks has spotlighted security and intelligence failures, with the government of President Ashraf Ghani coming under increasing pressure to protect civilians.
Kabul — overflowing with returning refugees and internally displaced Afghans fleeing war and seeking jobs and security — has been the deadliest place in the country for civilians for months.
Figures from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) show that Afghan civilians were deliberately targeted in militant attacks and suicide blasts in 2017.
The capital is a top target, with 16 percent of all casualties during the year — a total of 1,831 people killed and wounded — occurring in Kabul alone. The UN has warned that 2018 could be even deadlier.
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