“Initial assessments are that more than 150 terrorist fighters were eliminated“, he noted.
The weekend strikes hit an al-Shabab training camp about 120 miles north of the capital, Mogadishu, NPR’s Tom Bowman reports.
Davis said the group had neared the completion of specialist training to conduct “offensive operations”, declining to provide further details on the assault the fighters were allegedly planning.
He added that the military believes there were no civilian casualties, the Associated Press reported.
The US military said it had been monitoring the camp for several weeks before the strike and had gathered intelligence, including about an imminent threat posed by those in the camp.
US lawmakers have long pressed for more transparency about how many civilians the USA kills in drone strikes each year, but those calls for more disclosure have traditionally faced opposition from the USA intelligence community. The U.S. forces provide technical training and assistance and other support, Pentagon officials said. The Al-Qaeda aligned Shebab jihadists claimed responsiblity for the attacks, saying local officials were targeted.
If the death toll is accurate, Micah Zenko, senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), said it would be “the most lethal counterterrorism strike” by the USA that he is aware of.
The airstrikes were carried out by drones and manned aircraft, according to a Pentagon statement.
No American ground troops took part in the US strike on the training camp, Capt. Davis said.
“There will obviously be some limitations on where we can be transparent, given a variety of sensitivities – including diplomatic”, said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
African Union peacekeeping forces chased al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu in 2011 but it has remained a threat in Somalia, making frequent attacks to try and overthrow the Western-backed government, the Guardian reported.
Al-Shabab also was blamed when a bomb exploded aboard a commercial jet last month, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Mogadishu.
A USA drone strike in March 2015 killed Adan Garar, an al-Shabaab leader tied to the Westgate mall attack.