More aggressive US strikes in Somalia said to risk civilians

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President Donald Trump has granted the US military more authority to go after al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia, approving a Pentagon request to allow more aggressive airstrikes, officials said Thursday.

"The president has approved a Department of Defence proposal to provide additional precision fires in support" of the African Union Mission in Somalia and Somali security forces operations", said Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, in a statement.

Two American women were sentenced Friday for providing material support to the al-Shabaab terror group, which has always been targeting and killing Christians in parts of Africa, the U.S. Department of Justice said.

Specifically, the new authorities will help the U.S.'s local partners "increase pressure on al-Shabaab" while reducing threats to those forces, the Pentagon said.

He dismissed suggestions the change could cause more civilian casualties.

"Mr. Trump's escalation is less a break with his predecessor than an intensification of a trend that dates to Mr. Obama's a year ago in power", Savage and Schmitt observe, pointing out that the former president designated the Shabab an "associated force" of Al Qaeda.

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Security in Mandera region which borders Somalia remains volatile with the militia who crossed over from their neighboring country responsible for the numerous attacks that have rocked the area. The movement of so many people around the battlefield in search of food and water could make strikes more challenging, but the military says it has been preparing appropriately.

The United States' campaign against al-Shabab in Somalia has been expanding over the last several years. In court filings, her attorney called her "a damaged young woman who experienced countless horrors during her time in Somalia", and argued she was "of a generation and a population that was primed to see al-Shabaab as liberators of the Somali people". Since then, it has adopted more sophisticated forms of terrorism, including almost bringing down a Somali airliner in February with a bomb hidden in a laptop computer.

A few hundred U.S. Special Operations troops at a time have been deployed to Somalia, and President Barack Obama expanded the size of the operation in the fall to allow "self-defense strikes" in support of U.S. and African forces on the ground. If Trump approved the decision, the general said at the time, it would allow the US military to "prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion".

Islamic radicals belonging to al-Shabaab massacred 150 people in total, a lot of them Christian students.

Al-Shabaab reportedly killed dozens of Kenyan troops in January, but lost 31 fighters in a raid by Kenyan Defense Forces earlier this week. The new authority goes even further, with the US military advising Somali troops and coordinating airstrikes as needed, said Army Maj.

The official grade of certainty that civilians won't be killed has been lowered from "near certainty" to "reasonable certainty".

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