During his last two years in office, President Obama dramatically increased the number of airstrikes on Islamic militants in Somalia.
Donald Trump is making that increase look paltry.
The U.S. has launched at least 25 airstrikes on Somalia in the first ten months of the Trump administration, a rate equal to seven times the monthly average of the Obama era, according to figures provided to VICE News from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism Thursday.
Put simply: the tally in Trump’s first year is nearing the 34 total airstrikes ordered under Obama’s two terms in office.
“The increase is certainly pretty stark,” Jack Serle, who manages the Bureau’s drone war dataset, told VICE News by phone from London.
The focus has been the Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Al-Shabaab, which in October unleashed the deadliest car bombing in Somalia’s history, killing 358 people and injuring 400.
In March, Trump authorized the U.S. military to take a bigger role in Somalia, fighting alongside Somali government forces and African Union peacekeepers. Trump’s orders loosened restrictions on the military, allowing ground commanders to move more quickly on raids and bombing missions in ways that human rights groups have warned could put more civilians at risk.
U.S. airstrikes have killed at least 87 people so far this year, according to the Bureau. During Obama’s last year, 2016, airstrikes killed 204 people.
The U.S. carried out three strikes last weekend alone, one of which killed a single al-Shabaab militant who’d been spotted “participating in attacks on a U.S. and Somali convoy,” U.S. African Command said in a statement.
That one militant was then blown to pieces by a U.S. drone strike.