Helicopter Raid Targets Al-Shabaab Camps in Southern Somalia

  • Night-time assault targets militant facilities west of capital
  • Al-Qaeda-linked group says it repelled attack by `foreigners'

Helicopter-borne special forces staged a night-time raid on training camps in southern Somalia used by al-Qaeda-linked militants, a local official said.

The U.S. confirmed it provided helicopter transportation for the operation.

The assault on al-Shabaab facilities on the outskirts of Awdhegle town in Lower Shabelle region took place late Tuesday, Mohamed Aweys, the mayor who lives in a nearby settlement, said by phone. He said 11 of the Islamists were killed, without specifying the nationality of the attackers. Awdhegle is located about 45 kilometers (28 miles) west of the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab said “white foreigners” had landed forces near its camps and engaged its fighters. The Islamists repelled the attack after an hour-long battle, he told Radio Andalus, a broadcaster that supports their insurgency. He didn’t mention any casualties.

Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Wednesday that U.S. military personnel provided the helicopter transport as part of a small U.S. mission that’s training and assisting Somalia’s army, but didn’t participate in the actual raid.

The attack came about three days after a U.S. airstrike on a camp north of Mogadishu that the Pentagon said killed 150 fighters, a figure al-Shabaab described as exaggerated. U.S. strikes have helped weaken al-Shabaab, alongside military gains that drove the militants out of the capital and other central and southern regions over the past four years.

Raids, Blasts

The Islamist group has been waging an insurgency in Somalia since 2006. In the first quarter of this year, it raided a military base used by Kenyan soldiers, claiming to have killed 100, and staged attacks in Mogadishu and the southern town of Baidoa that left at least 40 people dead. Al-Shabaab also took responsibility for the blast on a passenger plane flying out of Mogadishu in early February that forced an emergency landing.

The ground offensive has been led by the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, which includes forces from Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, alongside the national army. Paul Njuguna, an Amisom spokesman, responded to a call seeking comment on Tuesday’s attack by asking for questions to be sent by text message. He didn’t immediately respond to texted queries.

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