US airstrike kills ISIS-Somalia’s ‘second in command’

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By Ryan Browne, CNN

Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT) April 15, 2019

U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division soldiers deployed with U.S. Army Forces Africa stand with Somali National Army soldiers during a graduation ceremony May 24, 2017, in Mogadishu, Somalia. The logistics course focused on various aspects of moving personnel, equipment and supplies. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nicholas M. Byers)

Washington (CNN)The US military conducted an airstrike Sunday that killed Abdulhakim Dhuqub, a high ranking ISIS-Somalia official.US Africa Command, which oversees US military operations on the continent, said in a statement Monday that the strike targeted a vehicle near Xiriiro, Bari Region.The statement refers to Dhuqub as the terror affiliate’s “second in command,” saying he “was responsible for the daily operations of the extremist group, attack planning, and resource procurement.”ISIS’ Somalia branch is a relatively small affiliate of the terror group, commanding fewer than 150 fighters according to US defense officials. It is much smaller than the al Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabaab militant group which commands more than 5,000.

Progress

“We continue to work with our Somali partners to keep pressure on the al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia terror networks,” Maj. Gen. Gregg Olson, the US Africa Command director of operations, said in the statement. American military officers, diplomats and USAID officials all tell CNN that Somalia is making progress in its fight against ISIS and the Al Shabaab insurgency, citing battlefield gains and economic and security sector reforms being made by the country’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khayre.Khayre was in Washington last week where he met with National Security Adviser John Bolton and visited the Pentagon to meet with senior defense officials.

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