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Al-Shabab Reports Cuban Hostages Killed by US Airstrikes

Mandera County, Kenya
Mandera County, Kenya

The U.S. military has confirmed conducting an airstrike near Jilib town in Somalia, where according to al-Shabab two Cuban hostages were killed in a drone strike on the same day.

The militant group said in a statement that a U.S. drone strike killed the two hostages, who have been in al-Shabab hands since April 2019 when the militants abducted them from Mandera County in northeastern Kenya.

The two doctors were among a medical team sent to Kenya by Cuba.

Al-Shabab said the doctors were killed “instantly” in the strike.

“The aerial bombardment which began at around 12:10 a.m. targeted a house in Jilib, instantly killing Assel Herrera and Landy Rodriguez who were captured on April 12, 2019,” al-Shabab said in the statement Saturday, written in English.

An image of the purported dead body of one of the hostages was attached to the statement.

The U.S. Africa Command known as AFRICOM confirmed to VOA that an airstrike was conducted against al-Shabab on February 15 near Jilib, according to AFRICOM spokesperson Lennea Montandon.

“We are aware of reports of a strike alleged to have killed two civilians. We do not have any further information at this time about these reports, but we do take all claims of civilian casualties seriously,” Montandon said in an email message to VOA. “The command will continue to assess the results of this operation and will provide additional information as available.”

The U.S. has supported the Somali government with airstrikes against al-Shabab and military training for government troops since the early 2010s.

Last week, the U.S. and Somali government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the construction of up to five military bases for the U.S.-trained elite Somali National Army forces known as the Danab (lightning) Brigade.

So far in 2024, AFRICOM has conducted four airstrikes in Somalia, Montandon told VOA.

Al-Shabab argued Monday’s strike showed U.S. intelligence is “faulty.”

“Thursday morning’s drone strikes against the Cuban prisoners once again sheds light on the recklessness and desperate nature of AFRICOM’s operations in Somalia, as well as the incompetence of the American crusaders and their faulty intelligence apparatus that has led to the murder of the two hostages,” the group’s statement said.

Last month, al-Shabab fighters captured several foreign workers traveling on a United Nations contracted helicopter after it landed in an al-Shabab territory in central Somalia following reported mechanical problems.