US drones ‘wiping out’ Al-Shabab in Somalia: AU mission head

Al-Shabaab terrorists have been trying since 2007 to overthrow Somalia's government. (FIle/Reuters)
Updated 27 January 2018

US drones ‘wiping out’ Al-Shabab in Somalia: AU mission head

ADDIS ABABA: Drone strikes by the US military are “wiping out” Shabab militants in Somalia, the head of the African Union mission in the country said in an interview.
The US has stepped up its operations in the war-torn Horn of Africa nation, targeting the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab, which has fought for the last decade to topple Somalia’s internationally backed government, and a separate self-proclaimed branch of Daesh.
“These drone attacks and others are wiping out Al-Shabab in good numbers. And that is good to finish with the terrorism,” said Francisco Madeira, the chief of the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) on the sidelines of the AU’s summit in the Ethiopian capital.
In recent months, US special forces and the Somali national army have killed scores in air strikes and ground assaults targeting Shabab, including a Christmas Eve strike that left 13 dead.
The surge in activity comes after President Donald Trump last year loosened constraints on the US military in Somalia, allowing commanders to take action against suspected terrorists when they judge it is needed, without seeking specific White House approval.
The US Africa Command has had to defend itself against allegations that its forces have killed civilians, issuing a statement in November that said no civilians died in a raid three months prior despite media reports to the contrary.
Madeira said only that if soldiers were accused of unlawfully killing civilians they would be taken to court. He said that when deaths did occur AMISOM did not have the money to pay reparations to bereaved families.
“We do not have money to pay for this. We have been sharing this with a number of partners, but so far the response has been very, very, very minimal, almost non-existent,” he said.
While AMISOM is scheduled to depart Somalia by December 2020, Madeira said an extension of the force’s mandate was not out of the question.
“The formation of a fully-fledged, functioning... Somali National Army, it might take a bit longer than that. But we can already have some critical mass of forces that can do the work,” he said.
The once 22,000-strong AMISOM force began pulling troops out of Somalia at the end of last year, and Madeira has previously highlighted the need for more support to enable the national army to take over.
Currently, the bloated and largely ineffective Somali army is more a collection of clan militias, with various international militaries providing poorly-coordinated training to different units.
The Al-Shabab lost its foothold in Mogadishu in 2011, but has continued its fight, and was blamed for the country’s worst ever attack in which a truck bombing left over 500 dead in October last year.

Navy destroyer’s Beirut visit a ‘security reminder’: US envoy

Updated 20 min 18 sec ago

Navy destroyer’s Beirut visit a ‘security reminder’: US envoy

BEIRUT: The US Navy destroyer USS Ramage docked at the port of Beirut for 24 hours as a “security reminder,” according to Elizabeth Richard, the US ambassador to Lebanon.

“The US Navy is not far away, and Our ships were often near the Mediterranean, and will remain so,” the American envoy said.

Ricard and Vice Admiral James J. Malloy – the commander of the 5th Fleet – whose area of responsibility includes the waters of Arabian Gulf, Gulf of Oman, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, hosted ‘an on-board reception for US and Lebanese officials.’

USS Ramage is an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, named after Vice Admiral Lawson P. Ramage, a notable submarine commander and Medal of Honor recipient in World War II. The ship specializes in destroying guided missiles launched from warships, aside from providing multiple offensive and defensive tasks.

Richard assured that “the security and stability in the East Mediterranean are of utmost importance to the United States and to Lebanon as well, and with regards to the issue of oil derivatives that concerns more than one state in the region, we hope that Lebanon joins in, as the issue of maritime security will soon acquire more importance.”

She assured that: “the presence of the USA in these waters is of common interest, and the presence of the American destroyer in Lebanon is a political message.”

Richard also said that partnership with Lebanon was not limited to military cooperation, and that the USA is “committed to help the Lebanese people through this period of economic hardship, and to supporting the Lebanese institutions that defend Lebanese sovereignty.”

Meanwhile, Admiral Malloy said during the reception that “our military relations with Lebanon transcends the issue of military hardware, and the Lebanese armed forces have set plans to improve its naval capabilities, and the USA will continue playing the primary role in supporting these efforts.”

Built in 1993, the USS Ramage was put into active service in 1995 with a crew of almost 300 officers and enlisted personnel. It is 154 meters long and 20 meters and could reach a top speed of 30 knots, or 56 kilometers per hour.