U.S. troops in Somalia came under fire in two separate attacks this week, requiring U.S. Africa Command to launch two "self-defense" airstrikes and killing 13 al-Shabab militants, a defense official said.
The first attack came Sept. 26 near Kismayo, a port city in southern Somalia, where a small team of U.S. forces was conducting operations alongside a Somali military unit. They were targeting a bomb-manufacturing network linked al-Shabab, the al-Qaida affiliate in Somalia.
When al-Shabab militants attacked the U.S. and Somali troops with small-arms fire, the U.S. military "conducted a self-defense strike to neutralize the threat and in doing so killed nine enemy fighters," said Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman.
The U.S. military maintains a "small number" of troops in Somalia to support the fight against al-Shabab. U.S. officials have not disclosed how many American troops are deployed to Somalia.
The second attack on U.S. forces came Wednesday in central Somalia near the town of Galkayo, Davis said.
A Somali army unit conducting counterterrorism operations was near, but not in the immediate vicinity of, a small team of U.S. forces when the Somali soldiers came under fire from al-Shabab militants.
The Somali soldiers returned fire, then broke contact and rejoined with their nearby American advisers.
Soon afterward, the al-Shabab fighters "began to maneuver in an offensive manner against the consolidated Somali-and-U.S. force," Davis said.
"Based on their threatening maneuvers and the previous hostile engagement with Somali forces, the U.S. conducted a self-defense strike to neutralize the threat," Davis said.
That strike killed four al-Shabab militants, Davis said.
Al-Shabab is a locally run Somali extremist group that has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida. It is fighting an insurgency against the American-backed Somali government based in Mogadishu.