It has been a busy 24 hours for U.S. military news coming out of Africa.
First, word came Monday afternoon that a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter carrying 17 Marines and eight sailors had crashed in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Djibouti and Somalia. The troops were with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed in support of operations in the Middle East, but were returning to the USS Mesa Verde, an amphibious ship, from training in Djibouti, Navy officials said.
Monday night, the Pentagon followed that by acknowledging a counter-terrorism mission in Somalia. U.S. officials told The Washington Post that the mission targeted Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, widely known as Godane, who had taken control of the militant group al-Shabab. The Somalian embassy in Washington said on Twitter on Tuesday morning that Godane and seven other militants had been killed:
Our Alliance has succeeded killing jihadi Ahmed Abdi Godane leader of Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked militants and other seven senior members.
— Somali Embassy USA (@SomaliEmbassyUS) September 2, 2014
This morning in The Washington Post, Craig Whitlock also reports that the U.S. military has opened another drone base in Niger, a landlocked Sahara nation in western Africa. As the map above illustrates, it’s part of the Pentagon’s expanding presence there, as France and the United States work together on counter-terrorism operations in the region.
The new U.S. drone base will be in the city of Agadez, at the edge of territory under the influence of militants with the group al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. U.S. troops also are said to operate from a French base in Chad near Nigerian territory where the Islamist group Boko Haram have abducted hundreds of men, women and children in waves over the last year.