- The Washington Times - Monday, March 7, 2016

More than 150 fighters aligned with al-Shabaab, a terrorist group with ties to al Qaeda, were killed Saturday when the U.S. Defense Department launched an airstrike in Somalia to prevent an imminent threat against American and allied forces, the Pentagon said on Monday.

Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a spokesman for the Pentagon, said Monday that the strike happened two days earlier at “Raso Camp,” an al-Shabaab training site around 120 miles north of Mogadishu.

The U.S. military had been monitoring the location for weeks, and ultimately authorized Saturday’s assault when intelligence indicated an offensive on U.S. and African Union forces in the area was about occur.

“The fighters were there training and were training for a large-scale attack. We know they were going to be departing the camp and they posed an imminent threat to U.S. and (African Union) forces,” Capt. Davis said at a press briefing on Monday.

“There was a sense that the operational phase was about to happen,” he told reporters.

Around 200 militants were at the camp at the time of the airstrike, with initial assessments suggesting “more than 150 terrorist fighters were eliminated,” Capt. Davis said.

The Pentagon spokesman and a senior defense official who spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity both claimed there were no civilian casualties.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement on Monday that the airstrike was carried out by both manned aircraft and drone, and done “in self-defense and in defense of our African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM].”

“The removal of these fighters degrades al-Shabaab’s ability to meet the group’s objectives in Somalia, including recruiting new members, establishing bases and planning attacks on U.S. and AMISOM forces,” Mr. Cook said in a statement, referring to the African Union Mission to Somalia, an UN-approved peace-keeping mission operated in Somalia with the AU.

Officials declined to say precisely where the strike occurred, but U.S advisers have been assisting African Union troops in the war-torn nation and maintain a drone base in neighboring Djibouti.

Also on Saturday, an AMISOM soldier was killed when roadside bombs were detonated as an AU convoy traveled through southwestern Somalia, Kenyan media reported. Al-Shabaab did not immediately take credit for the attack, but the group has been attributed with a wave of recent attacks throughout the country, including a double bombing last month at a busy restaurant in the Somali city of Baidog.

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