- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

An American airstrike on a suspected extortion checkpoint of the Somali terror group al-Shabaab ended with five militants dead, the Pentagon confirmed on Thursday.

The strike, which took place in an area west of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, was called in by a U.S. special operations team assisting Ugandan forces during a raid on the al-Shabaab checkpoint, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said.

No American or Ungandan troops were hurt during the raid or ensuing airstrike, Capt. Davis told reporters at the Pentagon. The 15 to 20 al Shabab gunmen manning the checkpoint posed an “imminent threat” to Ugandan forces and their U.S. counterparts, Capt. Davis said.

The call for U.S. air support came after the Ugandan assault team came under heavy fire while attempting to secure the al-Shabaab checkpoint, used by the Islamic State-affiliated group to extort money from individuals traveling through the area.

None of the members of the U.S. special operations team assisting the Ugandan troops participate in the raid, and none of the American troops opened fire during the ensuing firefight, Capt. Davis said.

While they did not participate directly in the attack, U.S. forces “were close enough” to observe the operation and eventually call in air support, he noted.

Capt. Davis did not comment specifically on whether the strike was carried out by U.S. drones or American warplanes. However, he did note that U.S. counterterrorism forces “typically use unmanned [aircraft] in Somalia.”

He declined to comment on the number of U.S. troops who were on the ground assisting the Ugandan force, but did note that roughly 50 American special operations forces members were currently in Somalia, conducting counterterrorism and military assistance for the African Union peacekeping force in the country.

In April, Pentagon officials claimed a U.S. airstrike took out one of the group’s top leaders. Hassan Ali Dhoore worked for al-Shabaab’s security and intelligence wing and allegedly orchestrated a deadly Christmas Day 2014 attack at Mogadishu International Airport and a March 2015 attack at the Maka al-Mukarramah Hotel.

Both attacks left over 30 dead, including three Americans, according to the Pentagon.

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