STUTTGART, Germany — Islamic State militants holed up in northern Somalia are recruiting fighters fast enough to offset battlefield losses despite an uptick in U.S. airstrikes in the country, U.S. Africa Command said in a new analysis of the group’s force strength.
Since April, AFRICOM has launched about eight airstrikes against ISIS-Somalia, killing roughly 20 militants, including the group’s second-in-command. But while some past estimates by security analysts have put the size of the militant group at between 100 and 200 fighters, military officials now say the group could be larger.
“ISIS-Somalia probably has up to 300 adherents, with the majority of fighters operating across northern Puntland,” said AFRICOM spokeswoman Samantha Reho, referring to the country’s northeastern region. “Although airstrikes have removed ISIS-Somalia terrorists from the battlefield, recruitment efforts in the region may offset some of the terrorist group’s losses.”
ISIS-aligned militants have been a small but persistent presence in Somalia for several years. The group is concentrated in the Bari Region of Puntland, a semi-autonomous region on the tip of the Horn of Africa.