NAIROBI (Somaliguardian) – Al-Shabaab militant group in Somalia increased use of drones to conduct reconnaissance flyover operations and to record activities of Somali security forces, the United Nations said in a new report, triggering fears that the Islamist group may soon start sending booby-trapped drones to strike government and military targets.
The Al-Qaeda-aligned group “has significantly increased its use of drones to conduct reconnaissance flyovers and record the activities of security forces,” the UN said.
“Member states expressed concern about the threat from weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles and the group’s intent and capacity to launch attacks on aircraft and civil aviation infrastructure,” statement reads
“That concern was aroused by Al-Shabaab plans to target low-flying aircraft within Somali airspace and along the border between Kenya and Somalia, which is an important corridor for humanitarian flights and the main route for commercial flights landing in Somalia.”
The Al-Qaeda franchise has man-portable air defense systems and other conventional weapons that could damage aircraft, according to the UN report.
It added that the armed group exploited a “security vacuum created by the preoccupation of Somali security forces with pre-election violence” and “encountered little resistance in capturing several towns” over the past months.
Withdrawal of US troops from the country in January and partial draw-down of the African Union forces in the war-torn nation put the Somali special forces in a delicate position and disabled them in containing Al-Shabaab, the United Nations said.
Over the past years, there has been fear that militants may target low-flying aircraft within Somalia’s airspace and in neighboring Kenya. A defector from Al-Shabaab told VOA Somali service in 2019 that the group may have been planning to use drones packed with explosives to hit targets in government-held areas and warned that the Islamist fighters may target airlines with shoulder missiles.
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