Congresswoman in House panel hearing accuses president of killing hundreds of al-Shabaab
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) complained during a House panel hearing on Thursday that President Donald Trump has intensified American airstrikes in her native Somalia, killing hundreds of al-Shabaab – the affiliates of al-Qaeda terrorist group.
Democrat Omar, who identified herself as “an African on this committee,” demanded that the Trump administration should “reassess” the way it deals with al-Shabaab and jihadis in Somalia.
Omar told the Trump administration witnesses:
“I just wanted to really get into this horrific reign of terror and its spread in Africa, and we oftentimes are really dealing with this issue, and it seems that we are attempting to drone it to death. …
“In Somalia, particularly in dealing with al-Shabaab, since President Trump has gotten elected, the number of drones has increased, but the number of attacks al-Shabaab has been able to carry out has also tripled. We also know the same to be true for Boko Haram.”
But the United States military only carries out direct airstrikes in Libya and Somalia.
It does not directly target the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group.
The US military does, however, support local efforts against the jihadis.
“There is sort of a direct correlation between our droning, and the increase of their [jihadis] assaults. And their recruitment seems to increase because of some of the civilian casualties that take place,” Omar said.
But Neon Nettle was unable to verify Omar’s claims that the U.S. air campaign has resulted in increased terrorist attacks and recruitment.
According to the Long War Journal, which cited Pentagon data, U.S. airstrikes against al-Shabaab, not attacks by the group Omar claims, are “on pace to nearly triple last year’s record number of airstrikes” on the group.
Acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for African Affairs at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), Michelle Lenihan, told Omar the drone strikes are t a “minor component” to bringing stability to Somalia.
The Mogadishu-based Hiraal Institute claimed in November that the increase in U.S. airstrikes drove al-Shabaab to change its tactics, resulting in a decrease in attacks in Somalia.
But the Institute also acknowledged at the time that terrorist group adapting to the “increasingly lethal air campaign.”
In March, residents of the Somali capital of Mogadish saw a wave of suicide and car bomb attacks from the al-Shabaab terrorist group.
Omar claimed that comments connected to Trump by Democrat anonymous sources and rebuked by the president make it hard for African countries to partner with the United States.
“All of you talked about the partnership that needs to happen in order for us to have greater influence in Africa, and I would be remiss if I didn’t say that, as an African on this committee, when you have a president who uses language like ‘shit hole countries,’ it makes it really hard for people in Africa to sort of think of themselves as being partners with the United States, and so I hope that we are in the business of developing better relations.”
The New York Times reported last year that U.S. airstrikes in Somalia resulted in the “third record high” annual death toll (326) of al-Shabaab jihadis.
But this year, al-Shabaab fatalities are on point to surpass those from 2018.
Trump issued an executive order to increase U.S. efforts against al-Shabaab soon after he took office.
During the hearing on Thursday, Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) pointed out:
“The U.S. has dramatically increased airstrikes to counter al-Shabaab in Somalia since April of 2017. We carried out more airstrikes in Somalia in the last nine months of 2017 than in the five years from 2012 to 2016. Then there were 47 in 2018 and almost 30 just in the first quarter of 2019.”
The Institute for Economics and Peace’s (IEP) Global Terrorism Index (GTI) revealed last year that Africa is one of the top ten countries with the highest increase in the number of terror-linked deaths between 2016 to 2017:
- The central African Republic
- Mali, and Kenya.
“The country with the largest total increase in terrorism compared to the prior year was Somalia where the number of deaths rose by 708, a 93 percent increase,” the GTI revealed.
“Since al-Shabaab’s first external attack in 2010, the group has killed hundreds through external operations, with the most lethal attacks occurring in Kenya and Uganda,” Gen. Thomas Waldhauser said.