Dataset: 2014 started with the longest pause in drone strikes of the 10-year campaign.
US and UK covert operations in Somalia
The Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) is the lead agency in the covert ‘war on terror’ in Somalia, although the CIA also has a strong regional presence.
The US has been carrying out extensive covert military operations inside Somalia since 2001, as a major six-part investigation by the US Army Times recently revealed.
Elite troops from the Pentagon’s JSOC are routinely deployed on the ground for surveillance, reconnaissance, and assault and capture operations. In June 2011, the US began carrying out drone strikes in Somalia. JSOC has its own fleet of armed Reaper drones, which are flown from various bases in the region.
The CIA also operates a secret base at Mogadishu airport, according to a detailed investigation by Jeremy Scahill at The Nation. Unarmed US surveillance drones also regularly fly from the airport, according to a well-informed Bureau source. While some of these are part of the US ‘war on terror’, many provide support for peacekeeping operations in the region.
The US’s primary target is currently al Shabaab, the militant group which controls much of the country’s south. On February 9 2012, al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri announced that al Shabaab had formally become a franchise of al Qaeda.
In recent years, both Kenya and Ethiopia have invaded parts of Somalia, the latter allegedly with the military aid of the US. JSOC forces are reported to have taken advantage of these events to carry out more intensive operations against militants, often using helicopters, airstrikes, AC-130 gunships and ‘boots on the ground’.
Key reports of operations in Somalia
The Bureau has collated credible reports of known covert operations and other events in Somalia relating to the ‘war on terror’. These are drawn from major international news media and agencies, political and military memoirs and papers, and academic research. All sources are transparently presented.
Given the nature of covert operations and the difficulties in reporting from Somalia, the Bureau understands that this is an incomplete record. We welcome corrections and additions.
|Covert US operations, Somalia 2001-2014|
|US drone strikes||Additional US attacks|
|Total reported strikes:||6-9||8-11|
|Total reported killed:||16-32||40-141|
|Civilians reported killed:||0-1||7-47|
|Children reported killed:||0||0-2|
|Total reported injured:||2-3||11-21|
In 2001, the Bush administration reportedly considered military strikes against Somalia, accusing it of having ties to al Qaeda. Action was abandoned because of insufficient intelligence. ‘Somalia has been a place that has harboured al Qaeda and, to my knowledge, still is’, then-defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in 2001. Military flights in P-3 aircraft conducted surveillance while an increased numbers of US ships and submarines patrolled the Somali coastline. Reportedly about 100 US Special Forces operated in the country, similar to early incursions into Afghanistan. On December 2, 2001, the UK Daily Telegraph reported that the US had asked the UK for assistance in planning strikes on ‘terror bases’ in Somalia.
Washington placed Hassan Dahir Aweys (pictured) on its terrorist list. Aweys was the head of the 90-member shura council of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) of Somalia and was viewed as one of its more radical leaders. The US also declared the suspected terrorist Fazul Abdullah Mohamed was operating within Somali borders. Sanctions on individuals soon expanded to groups. On November 7 2001, the US Treasury blocked the assets of the largest Somali telecommunications and remittance network, al-Barakaat. According to a November 2001 press release by the White House, al-Barakaat offices ‘raise, manage and distribute funds for al-Qaeda; provide terrorist supporters with Internet service and secure telephone communications; and arrange for the shipment of weapons’.
Late 2001, early 2002
A major investigation by the US Army Times has revealed that in the first years following the September 11 attacks, there were rumours of potential al Qaeda training camps in Ras Kamboni, a coastal town about two miles from the Kenyan border. ‘We were throwing people at Ras Kamboni … in late ‘01, early ‘02,’ an intelligence source with long experience in the Horn of Africa told reporter Sean D. Naylor. Looking specifically at JSOC, an intelligence source told Naylor that ‘between 2001 and 2004, JSOC never had more than three people at a time in Somalia’.
March 19 2003
A team possibly including US commandos reportedly snatched alleged al Qaeda member Suleiman Abdallah from a hospital in Mogadishu and transported him out of the country for questioning, according to one claim. ‘Staff at the Kaysaney Red Cross Hospital said a six-man team in plain clothes snatched the suspect from his bed and rushed him to an airstrip in a raid lasting only minutes. It appears that the Americans were working with a militia faction that controls the area around the hospital in the north of the city’, the Telegraph reported. The TFG told the Telegraph the US team included ‘4 or 5′ FBI agents. Matt Bryden, coordinator for the UN monitoring group on Somalia, and Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group, wrote in autumn 2003 that Abdallah was a Yemeni national:
Although intelligence officials have not publicly disclosed evidence linking Abdallah to any terrorist acts, he was found to be in possession of a list of former and serving US government officials, suggesting a planned attack on American targets.
According to legal charity Reprieve Abdallah was captured ‘by a notorious warlord named Mohammed Dheere‘. He was then ‘sold to the CIA and then rendered to Djibouti, Kenya and Afghanistan’. Abdallah was held by the US for ‘over five years in incommunicado detention in the Salt Pit, the Dark Prison and Bagram Airforce Base’, before being released in July 2008. The case is documented in a UN secret detention report. In March 2012 a torture victim understood to be Abdallah and referred to as ‘Rashid in the US Annals of Internal Medicine is described as having suffered ‘severe beatings, prolonged solitary confinement, forced nakedness and humiliation, sexual assault, being locked naked in a coffin, and forced to lie naked on a wet mat, naked and handcuffed, and then rolled up into a wet mat “like a corpse.”’
Type of action: Ground operation, rendition
References: Boston College International & Comparative Law Review , Daily Telegraph, Journal of Conflict Studies, Reprieve, UN, Annals of Internal Medicine citation via Policy Mic, The Nation (US)
US special forces infiltrated Somalian waters in 2003 and planted a dozen or more concealed cameras, as part of Operations Cobalt Blue and Poison Scepter, the Army Times revealed. According to reporter Sean D. Naylor, on January 12 2004 a fisherman discovered one of the cameras. ‘Asked what the secret camera missions achieved, the intel source with long experience on the Horn answered bluntly: “Nothing”.’
Type of action: Ground operation, surveillance
Location: Northern/eastern coast of Somalia
Reference: Army Times
Again according to Sean D. Naylor of the Army Times, beginning in 2003 teams of CIA case officers and ‘shooters’ from a special operations unit – Task Force Orange – flew into Somalia from Nairobi. Initially the teams gathered intelligence. ‘They soon expanded to include working with warlords to hunt al-Qaida members, tapping cellphones, purchasing [back] anti-aircraft missiles and, ultimately, developing a deeper understanding of al-Qaida’s East African franchise and how it fit into the wider al-Qaida network,’ Naylor reported. In an effort to develop targets, the CIA, supported by TF Orange, ran a series of missions into Mogadishu to ‘seed’ the city with devices that monitored mobile phone traffic, according to a senior military official. Mobile phone tapping targets included Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of the original al-Qaida in East Africa leaders, as well as two senior figures in Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militia: Aden Hashi Ayro, who allegedly trained in al Qaeda’s Afghanistan camps, and Ahmed Abdi Godane, the group’s leader from 2009 to 2010, according to the intelligence official.
Reference: Army Times
Late 2003 to early 2004
Interest in Ras Kamboni resumed in late 2003 to early 2004, when US personnel flew over the town but saw no sign of any training camps. At that time, the US were also paying ‘unilateral assets’ – spies – to enter southern Somalia, including Ras Kamboni, and report on what they observed. Paid $1,000 – $2,000 a month, these were ‘Somalis who had businesses in the region, Somalis who had reason to be there,’ the source said. ‘People we could depend on.’ According to the International Crisis Group, key individuals paid by the US for counter-terrorism included ‘Mohamed Omar Habeeb (aka Mohamed Dheere, regional ‘governor’ of the Middle Shabelle), Bashir Raghe (a northern Mogadishu businessman), Mohamed Qanyare Afrah Hussein Aydiid, and Generals Mohamed Nur Galal and Ahmed Hili’ow Addow’. By 2006, the US was paying Somali militants up to $150,000 a month for their support.
One night in June 2004, Mohammed Ali Isse was captured in a CIA-ordered raid on his Mogadishu safe house by the Americans. A Somalilander, Isse was reportedly radicalised by the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and is now serving a life sentence for masterminding the killings of four foreign aid workers, including two British teachers, in late 2003 and early 2004. Mohamed Afrah Qanyare, a ‘scar-faced warlord in a business suit’, told the Chicago Tribune: ‘I captured Isse for the Americans…The Americans contracted us to do certain things, and we did them. Isse put up resistance so we shot him. But he survived.’ Legal charity Reprieve told the Bureau that Isse was rendered to a warship off the coast of Djibouti. ‘He was later flown to Camp Lemonier‘ the Chicago Tribune reported, ‘and from there to a clandestine prison in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Isse and his lawyer allege he was detained there for six weeks and tortured by Ethiopian military intelligence with electric shocks‘. Isse was finally returned to Somaliland, where he remains imprisoned.
2001 – 2005
During this period, warlords paid by the CIA helped render ‘seven or eight’ al Qaida figures out of Somalia, Sean D. Naylor of the Army Times reported. This included suspected al Qaeda terrorist Suleiman Abdallah from a hospital in Mogadishu in March 2003 and Mohammed Ali Isse, a Somalilander captured by warlords in Mogadishu in 2004 and rendered to a warship off the coast of Djibouti, before being imprisoned in Somaliland. As the Chicago Tribune reported, ‘the Somalis on the CIA payroll engaged in a grim tit-for-tat exchange of kidnappings and assassinations with extremists.’ However, Matt Bryden, coordinator for the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, told the Chicago Tribune that, in his opinion, the CIA’s cooperation with the warlords was ‘a stupid idea… it actually strengthened the hand of the Islamists and helped trigger the crisis we’re in today.’
Confidential emails seen by Africa Confidential and the Observer indicated that US mercenaries may have been operating in Somalia with the knowledge of the CIA. There was also a suggestion that British companies were ‘looking to get involved.’ One email dated June 16 was from Michele Ballarin, chief executive of Select Armor – a US military firm based in Virginia. She claimed that she had been given ‘carte blanche’ to use three bases in Somalia ‘and the air access to reach them’.
December 24 2006
Ethiopia invaded Somalia aiming to drive out the Islamic Courts Union, and to reinstate the Transitional Somali Government. Several sources reported that Ethiopia received extensive backing from the US, with the Nation’s Jeremy Scahill calling the invasion ‘a classic [US] proxy war’. As 10,000 troops crossed the border, they received airborne reconnaissance support and ‘other intelligence’ from the US, the Washington Post reported. Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Commander Joe Carpenter told USA Today the US and Ethiopian militaries have ‘a close working relationship’. The US also began diverting drones to Somalia to monitor a perceived rise in militant activity. An intelligence source told the Army Times:
We really took [a] risk in Iraq and Afghanistan and brought resources there [to the Horn].
But Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer later told the BBC: ‘We urged the Ethiopian military not to go into Somalia’. In a December 6 diplomatic cable quoted by Army Times, US Ambassador to Ethiopia Donald Yamamoto warned the Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi that the invasion could ‘prove more difficult for Ethiopia than many now imagine’. JSOC was unprepared for the invasion, a senior military official told the Army Times. ‘The military wasn’t prepared to take any advantage of it,’ he said. ‘Less than a dozen’ JSOC operators entered the country with Ethiopian special forces to hunt down a small number of senior al Qaeda associates. By December 28, Ethiopian forces had entered Mogadishu as militants fled to the south.
The US became convinced that ‘hundreds‘ of fighters were training in camps in and around Ras Kamboni, a senior intelligence official told Sean D. Naylor. ‘We observed two that had at least 150 personnel per [at any one time],’ the official said.
Location: Ras Kamboni
Reference: Army Times
January 4 2007
Naval forces from Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 were now boarding vessels off the coast of Somalia to search for terrorist suspects, the US announced. These ‘Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure’ (VBSS) missions were performed on fishing boats and oil tankers passing near the Somali coast. The aim was to ‘deter individuals with links to al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations the use of the sea as a potential escape route’.
Location: Off the coast of Somalia
Reference: US Department of Defense
January 7 2007
♦ 9-10 total reported killed
♦ 2+ civilians reported killed, 0-1 children
♦ 1-3 reported injured
As Ethiopian forces invaded Somalia, the US carried out its first known combat operation within Somalia since the September 11 2001 attacks. A JSOC AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al Qaeda convoy under cover of darkness, after tracking it with a Predator drone. Up to a dozen militants were killed. US officials, speaking anonymously, named various al Qaeda members as potential targets including Tariq Abdullah, Aden Hashi Eyro or Ayro, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, and Sudanese explosives expert Abu Talha al-Sudani. According to several reports and Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, targets were those believed to be responsible for the 1998 embassy bombings, which killed 225 people. Somali government spokesman Abdul Rashid Hidig told the New York Times that two civilians were killed, although an Islamist spokesman said many nomadic tribesmen died, including many children. US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Rannenberger denied any civilian casualties in an interview with the BBC. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told CBS News the strike was based on intelligence ‘that led us to believe we had principal al Qaeda leaders in an area where we could identify them and take action against them.’ But another US official told the Washington Post: ‘Frankly, I don’t think we know who we killed.’
A team of Ethiopian military with one US Special Forces operative landed at the scene within hours and confirmed eight dead and three injured, the New York Times reported the following month. Ayro’s bloodied passport was found, leading them to believe he had been wounded or killed, the report added – although Ayro was later targeted in SOM008. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was also reportedly the target of SOM002 and SOM005. A later report in the Daily Mail claimed four British citizens were killed in the attack (see March 2007). Five days after the incident, a number of individuals surrendered to Kenyan authorities, including a number of Swedish citizens; Fazul’s wife Mariam Ali Mohammed; and eight children. They were deported to Mogadishu and then seized by the Ethiopian intelligence service, who transported them to Addis Addaba where they were held for ten weeks.
Type of action: Air operation, AC-130 gunship
Location: Ras Kamboni
References: Somalia Report, Between Threats and War (Zenko) p. 145, Army Times, CBS News, International Crisis Group, Menkhaus, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, New York Times, Long War Journal, Daily Mail, AP via ChinaDaily, Wired, Daily Times (Kenya), New York Times, Pentagon statement
January 9 2007
♦ 5-10 total reported killed
♦ 4-5 reported injured
Two days after the AC-130 attack, another US airstrike hit four towns near Ras Kamboni, including a training camp on Badmadow island. US officials denied to the LA Times that SOM001 and SOM002 were the work of US forces and blamed Ethiopian air attacks, although this appears to be contradicted by a January 12 2007 US secret cable obtained by WikiLeaks, which refers to a ‘US military … strike Jan. 9 against members of the East Africa Al Qaeda cell believed to be on the run in a remote area of Somalia near the Kenyan border.’ A US intelligence official, speaking anonymously, told AP that five to ten people targeted by the strike were believed to be associated with al Qaeda. The US military’s main target on the island was thought to be Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Although reports suggested he had been killed, he was also the target of SOM001 and SOM005. The official said a small number of others present, perhaps four or five, were wounded. Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said it was not known how many people were killed, ‘but we understand there were a lot of casualties. Most were Islamic fighters.’
January 9 2007
♦ 4-31 total reported killed
♦ 4-31 civilians reported killed, including 0-1 child
Heavy civilian casualties were reported in airstrikes on Hayi near Afmadow, on Hayi, 250km northwest of Ras Kamboni, and other parts of southern Somalia, in confusing reports which may conflate activity by US and other forces. An elder told Reuters 22-27 people had been killed, while a Somali politician told CBS News that 31 civilians ‘including a newlywed couple’ had been killed by two helicopters near Afmadow, while Mohamed Mahmud Burale told AP that at least four civilians were killed on Monday evening in Hayi, including his four-year-old son.
January 23 2007
♦ 8 total reported killed
♦ Possible civilians reported killed
A fresh JSOC AC-130 strike in Somalia, reportedly operating from an airbase in eastern Ethiopia, targeted Ahmed Madobe, a deputy of ICU leader Hassan Turki. Madobe survived the attack but was wounded and captured, he later told The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill. His eight companions, who Madobe said included men and women ‘on the run’ with him, were all killed. Madobe told the Nation:
At around 4am we woke up to perform the dawn prayers, and that’s when the planes started to hit us. The entire airspace was full of planes. There was AC-130, helicopters and fighter jets. The sky was full of strikes. They were hitting us, pounding us with heavy weaponry.
At around 10am, he added, Ethiopian and US forces landed by helicopter and captured him. Somalia Report said the attack was on an al Qaeda supply convoy, and ‘follow-up operations’ confirmed the strike killed Tariq Abdullah.
Type of action: Air operation, AC-130 gunship and ground assault, capture
References: AP via Washington Post, WikiLeaks diplomatic cable, The Nation, Army Times, Between Threats and War (Zenko) p. 146, International Crisis Group, Somalia Report, Reuters, New York Times
A single source claims an SAS unit entered Somalia with members of US Delta Force (part of JSOC) to identify the remains of British and other foreign fighters killed in SOM004. The joint mission took DNA samples from 50 exhumed bodies and four British citizens were identified, the report claimed.
Type of action: Ground operation
Reference: Daily Mail
June 1 2007
♦ 8-12 reported killed
♦ Five gunmen captured
The destroyer USS Chafee, sailing off the coast of Somalia, fired ‘more than a dozen rounds from its 5-inch gun’ on militants in Bargal, north Somalia (some reports also claimed that a cruise missile was fired). Somali spokesmen claimed the strike was launched after around 35 heavily armed militants landed on the coast near Bargal and attacked local forces. The New York Times and Micah Zenko reported that a small number of US operatives – working alongside Somali forces to hunt high-value targets believed to be among the militants – came under fire, prompting the missile launch, enabling the US and Ethiopian troops to escape. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the 1998 embassy bombings, was among the targets, according to MSNBC and Zenko. The strike killed eight to twelve alleged militants, reportedly including men from the UK, US, Eritrea, Sweden and Yemen. Five militants were captured, a Somali official told the Chicago Tribune. The US operatives comprised three counterterrorism officials who were ‘investigating the computers that the militants were carrying,’ Hassan Dahir, the vice-president of Puntland, told the New York Times.
In 2013 it emerged that Yemeni Mansur al Bayhani was killed in this attack. He was one of 23 al Qaeda members who escaped from prison on Yemen in 2006, according to author and Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen’s book The Last Refuge. Al Bayhani had turned himself in to the Yemen authorities and had sworn not to carry out any attacks in Yemen. Several of the 23 escapees went on to found al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Type of action: Naval operation, naval bombardment
Location: Bargal, Puntland
References: Between Threats and War (Zenko) p.147, Army Times, Stars and Stripes, Chicago Tribune, New York Times, MSNBC, Long War Journal, Telegraph, The Last Refuge
June 7 2007
The US announced it had detained and rendered suspected al Qaeda member Abdullahi Sudi Arale, a leading member of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) who it described as ‘an extremely dangerous terror suspect’, with links to Islamist forces in Somalia. Arale had been detained in the Horn of Africa and transferred to the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, the Pentagon said:
Abdullahi Sudi Arale is suspected of being a member of the Al Qaeda terrorist network in East Africa, serving as a courier between East Africa Al Qaeda (EAAQ) and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. Since his return from Pakistan to Somalia in September 2006, he has held a leadership role in the EAAQ-affiliated Somali Council of Islamic Courts (CIC). There is significant information available indicating that Arale has been assisting various EAAQ-affiliated extremists in acquiring weapons and explosives, and has facilitated terrorist travel by providing false documents for AQ and EAAQ-affiliates and foreign fighters traveling into Somalia. Arale played a significant role in the re-emergence of the CIC in Mogadishu.
March 3 2008
♦ 0-6 total reported killed
♦ 0-4 civilians reported killed
♦ 3-8 reported injured
The US fired at least one and as many as three cruise missiles at Dhobley, a town in southern Somalia four miles from the Kenyan border. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told AFP: ‘On March 2, the US conducted an attack against a known al Qaeda terrorist in southern Somalia.’ The Long War Journal reported the strike targeted Ras Kamboni Brigades leader Hassan Turki and al Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. He was a member of al Qaeda’s ruling Shura Council and controlled the group’s East Africa cells. The US had put a $25m bounty on his head. Despite anonymous officials claiming it was a cruise missile strike, an Islamist spokesman said the town was bombed and civilian targets hit in an attack carried out by a US AC-130 gunship. There were conflicting reports of casualties in the strike. A local elder, Abdullahi Sheikh Duale, said four civilians were killed. Witnesses said at least six people were killed in the strike. And a police officer told AP eight people were wounded in the strike. However Dhobley residents told the New York Times three civilians were injured in the attack that partly destroyed a house. The only fatalities were three cows and a donkey, they said.
Type of action: Naval operation, cruise missiles and possible air operation, AC-130 gunship
References: AFP, Bloomberg, Monsters and Critics, Long War Journal, Associated Press, Washington Times, New York Times
May 1 2008
♦ 8-15 total reported killed
♦ 5-10 civilians reported killed
In May 2008, US naval-launched cruise missiles killed Aden Hashi Ayro (see also SOM001), the head of the Somali Islamist movement al Shabaab, which had growing ties with Al Qaeda. Some reports claimed an AC-130 was also involved. After Ayro’s death al Shabaab reportedly suspected the US had tracked him through his iPhone and banned the use of similar devices. An American military official in Washington told the New York Times:
[A]t least four Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a Navy ship or submarine off the Somali coast had slammed into a small compound of single-story buildings in Dusa Marreb, a well-known hide-out for Mr. Ayro and his associates. The military official and two American intelligence officials said all indications were that Mr. Ayro was killed, along with several top lieutenants, but the attack was still being assessed.
Insurgent leaders had been meeting in Dusa Marreb, al Shabaab-controlled broadcaster Shabelle reported, putting the death toll at 15. A Shabaab spokesman, Mukhtar Ali Robow, told Reuters: ‘Infidel planes bombed Dusa Marreb… Two of our important people, including Ayro, were killed.’ Sheikh Muhyadin Omar was among the dead, according to the Long War Journal and Africa Confidential. Residents said ‘several other Shabaab fighters and civilians were killed, Reuters reported. Half a dozen senior Al Shabaab commanders and Ayro’s brother were killed in the strike, according to Africa Confidential. Ayro’s wife and children, and people from nearby houses, were also reported dead.
Type of action: Naval operation, cruise missiles and possible air assault, AC-130 gunship
Location: Dusa Marreb town, central Somalia
References: Army Times, Christian Science Monitor, AllAfrica.com, Time, Between Threats and War (Zenko) p. 151, New York Times, Reuters, Africa Confidential, Long War Journal, Long War Journal, US diplomatic cable, AFP
Newsweek reported that the Pentagon considered attacking an al-Shabaab training camp. A high-level operative with the group was supposed to be attending a ‘graduation ceremony’ of militants from a camp. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen reportedly outlined a ‘strike package’ which included bombing other camps. The tactic was likened by USMC General James Cartwright to ‘carpet bombing a country.’ President Obama vetoed the attack.
March 14 2009
Apparently confirming US fears of a militant link between Somalia and al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden used an audio recording, posted on Jihadi websites, to urge Somalis to ‘fight on‘ against their newly elected president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, CBS News reported. ‘Bin Laden asked Muslim youths to disseminate extremist literature online‘, the report claimed. Ken Menkhaus, professor of political science at Davidson University and Somalia expert, felt bin Laden’s message would only bolster support for the new president. ‘There’s nothing that plays as poorly in Somalia as foreigners trying to advance their own agenda in Somalia – telling them who they may or may not have as a leader – and al-Qaeda is falling into that category. In some ways, you could not script this any better for the new government. On paper, it all looks excellent,’ he told TIME.
April 12 2009
♦ 3 pirates reported killed
A hostage rescue operation reveals the presence of JSOC Navy Seal Team 6 commandos off the coast of Somalia. Richard Phillips, a rescued US hostage, was then ‘flown to the Boxer, an amphibious assault ship also off the Somali coast’. The Boxer, a JSOC ship, also featured in the 2011 capture and rendition off the Yemen coast of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame.
September 14 2009
♦ 2-6 reported killed
♦ 2 reported injured
In an operation codenamed ‘Celestial Balance’ US Special Forces launched a helicopter raid into Somalia, killing Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, wanted in connection with the Mombasa attacks. ‘We’d been tracking him for years,’ a senior military official told Sean D. Naylor, in the Army Times. ‘We knew his travel route, we knew the vehicles he was using’. Three options were initially mooted to Obama and his senior advisers: to fire Tomahawk cruise missiles from a warship off the Somali coast; a helicopter attack on the convoy, or a ‘snatch and grab‘ operation attempting to take Nabhan alive. According to Klaidman ‘as everyone left the meeting that evening it was clear that the only viable plan was the lethal one.’
The US learned that Nabhan’s convoy would be setting off from Mogadishu to meet Islamic militants in the coastal town of Baraawe, the Beast reported. As the convoy neared Baraawe, JSOC struck. A number of 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment AH-6 Little Bird helicopters flew from a Navy ship and attacked the militants as they were breakfasting, killing six, including Nabhan, according to news reports. However, NPR radio reported that SEAL commandos fired missiles into Nabhan’s car. The Army Times and Daily Beast stated that one helicopter landed, with operators jumping out to load the bodies of Nabhan and three others into the aircraft, in order to retrieve Nabhan’s DNA. Following this operation, a Pentagon official told the Daily Beast the US Special Ops Forces wanted to increase their use of Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE), ‘not just to kill terror targets but to rummage through their belongings’, but ‘the president was not supportive’ and that this became a bone of contention between Special Ops and the Obama administration.
Type of action: Air operation, helicopter and ground assault, body retrieval
References: ABC, Mareeg, Guardian, Time, Army Times, Air Force Times, NPR, The Daily Beast, Daily Mail, Long War Journal, Long War Journal, Kill Or Capture/ Klaidman pp125-127
September 22 2009
A diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks revealed unarmed US drones would soon fly from a base in the Seychelles on missions over Somalia: ‘Counter-terrorism missions will involve intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance flights over the Horn of Africa to support ongoing counter-terrorism efforts. The UAVs originating from Seychelles and flying counter-terrorism mission will not conduct direct attacks.’ ABC News has since reported ‘US Africa Command has been flying drones out of the Seychelles since 2009 as part of anti-piracy measures in the Indian Ocean.’ The WikiLeaks cable revealed 77 US personnel would be located in Mahe, the capital, to launch, recover and maintain the drones.
September 30 2009
A secret directive, the ‘Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order’, was signed by General David Petraeus, chief of Central Command, authorising ‘the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces,’ according to the New York Times. The order, which an official said ‘was drafted in close coordination with Admiral Eric T. Olson, the officer in charge of the United States Special Operations Command‘, called for clandestine activities that ‘cannot or will not be accomplished’ by conventional military operations or ‘interagency activities.’
Reference: New York Times
October 19 2009
Al Shabaab militants claimed they had shot down a US surveillance drone just off the coast near to Kismayo. ‘The suspected US aircraft had been flying in Kismayo airspace for days before being shot down two miles north-east of the town on Monday morning,’ an unnamed Islamist official told the BBC. ‘We think it fell into the sea. We are still searching for it’. ‘It fell into the water and our fighters are trying to locate it,’ al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Hassan Yacqub told Reuters. But US Navy spokesman Lieutenant Nathan Christensen told Reuters all drones had been safely recovered.
February 4 2010
A Pentagon request to carry out targeted killings of al-Shabaaab leaders was reportedly overridden by Pentagon legal adviser Jeh Johnson. According to Newsweek
The decision came just as the military was ramping up its operations in Somalia. Pentagon officers left the meeting without saying a word to Johnson. It was a lonely moment for an ambitious lawyer who was used to getting along with his uniformed colleagues.
Johnson reversed his decision by the end of 2010 after ‘the military mounted a fierce campaign to persuade him to reverse course.’
According to the Guardian, in summer 2010 the UK began drawing up ‘contingency plans’ for airstrikes on beach camps in Somalia, having become highly concerned about the threat to Britain and Europe posed by pirates and Islamic insurgents. ‘The UK has also considered plans for attacking targets in places where al-Shabaab and the pirates appear to co-exist, particularly in southern Somalia’, the Guardian reported.
Location: coastal and southern Somalia
Reference: The Guardian
The US agreed to place two Al Shabaab leaders on its ‘death list’ including Sheikh Mohammed Mukhtar Abdirahman, according to Newsweek. Efforts to add a third man, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, were reportedly overruled by State Department lawyer Harold Koh.
Koh forcefully insisted that the “killing would be unlawful.” Robow was removed from the targeting list. But the pressure to expand the list rarely lets up. After Al-Shabab’s top leader swore his organization’s allegiance to al Qaeda earlier this year , Obama officials renewed their earlier debate. Robow’s life again hangs in the balance.
April 3-6 2011
♦ 1-36 reported killed
After a reporting gap of 18 months, US air attacks may have resumed. Reports of intense fighting for control of the town of Dhobley between al Shabaab and Somali forces mention an air strike, which Shabelle reports killed several militants. Somalia Report stated: ‘on April 6, shortly after the exploitation of data from captured al-Qaeda cell phones and laptops, three dozen al Shabab members were killed‘, although later reports say only one commander was killed. Jabreel Malik Muhammed was killed in the strike, according to the Observer (Uganda).
June 23 2011
♦ 2+ reported killed
♦ 2-3 reported injured
In the first known lethal drone strike in Somalia, Predators struck a militant training camp 10km south of Kismayo. Further missiles hit a second target near the airport. The attacks were aimed at two senior militants who were planning an imminent terrorist attack on the UK, US officials told the Washington Post. Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, Somalia’s deputy defence minister, told AP the strike killed ‘many’ foreign fighters. ‘I have their names, but I don’t want to release them,’ he claimed. Ibrahim al Afghani, also known as Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead, a senior leader in al Shabaab, was reportedly wounded or killed, although Strategic Forecasting claimed on August 11 that Afghani was alive and had replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane as the emir of al Shabaab. Al Shabaab has not responded to either report, and Afghani has not appeared in public since. Two militants were wounded, according to a local al Shabaab leader, Sheik Hassan Yaqub, while resident Mohammed Aden reported seeing three wounded militants. Among them was British citizen Bilal al Berjawi, killed in a subsequent drone strike, SOM018. US helicopters reportedly landed after the attack, with troops retrieving some dead and injured. The strike was the first joint mission conducted by JSOC and the CIA, CNN claimed.
Type of action: Air operation, drone strike, helicopter raid
References: Long War Journal, Washington Post, Al Jazeera, Somalia Report, Boston Globe, Strategic Forecasting via Critical Threats, Bloomberg, Associated Press, New York Times, All Africa, CNN
Russia Today reports on the first US drone attack in Somalia
June 28 2011
In a piece looking at drone strikes in Somalia, Somalia Report stated that on this day, ‘another attack occurred in Taabta village in the Afmadow District of Lower Juba’. However, it is unclear whether this was a US strike, and Somalia Report was not able to provide further information.
Type of action: Air assault, possible drone strike
Reference: Somalia Report
July 6 2011
♦ Unknown number killed
US drones or planes reportedly hit three al Shabaab militant training camps in Afmadow. ‘Early in the morning and before the sunrise, we heard more than five heavy blasts not far from the town. We believe it was an airstrike,’ said a resident. ‘Minutes later, we saw three military vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed to Kismayo. We believe they were carrying victims of the attack.’ However, then-Somalia Report editor Michael Logan told the Bureau by email it is simply not known if US drones were behind this attack. ‘This is one of those that cannot be confirmed as a drone. Lots of witnesses and a TFG official do confirm an attack, so some kind of strike took place (but as you know, there are a variety of actors capable of launching missiles),’ he said. Somali deputy defence minister Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig said at the time: ‘The foreigners and senior officials of the terrorist group are afraid. They secretly hide amongst the civilians. The airstrikes will continue until we minimize the enemy from our country.’ But Dr. Omar Ahmed, an academic and Somali politician, told Somalia Report airstrikes would increase local support for al Shabaab: ‘There is no reason for the western countries to use airstrikes against al-Shabaab. It will only increase the generations supporting al Shabaab.’
Type of action:Air operation, either drone or airstrike
Reference: Somalia Report
August 1 2011
The Nation’s Jeremy Scahill revealed the CIA was operating a secret base in Mogadishu. According to the award-winning reporter, the CIA had its own aircraft at the site, and operated subcontracted underground interrogation cells elsewhere in the city. He stated:
At the [airport] facility, the CIA runs a counterterrorism training program for Somali intelligence agents and operatives aimed at building an indigenous strike force capable of snatch operations and targeted ‘combat’ operations against members of Al Shabab, an Islamic militant group with close ties to Al Qaeda.
Jeremy Scahill discusses his investigation on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
August 19 2011
Security officials in Somalia reported a drone had crashed in Mogadishu, but provided no details about who was operating it. Officials told Voice of America the drone crashed into a house near the Libyan Embassy. Small surveillance drones were known to be operated in the capital by both the US and AMISOM, according to a well-informed Bureau source.
August 22 2011
Radio Andalus, an al Shabaab-run radio station, reported that five American surveillance drones had crashed in southern Somalia ‘over the last two weeks‘. Two of these drones fell in Mogadishu, one in Kismayo, and the others around Merka town of Lower Shabelle. The radio station claimed the US had confirmed some of these drones crashed in Somalia for technical reasons. However there is no other source for this.
Location: Mogadishu, Kismayo, Merka
References: Radio Andalus, via Somalia Report
In September 2011, Iranian broadcaster Press TV began reporting the deaths of civilians and others in alleged US drone strikes in Somalia, as well as a number of drone crashes. A three-month investigation by the Bureau failed to find independent corroboration for any of these supposed strikes, which Press TV claimed killed more than 1,300 civilians. These alleged strikes are listed separately here.
September 15 2011
♦ Unknown casualties
AFP reported that residents of Kismayo heard ‘the sound of aircraft and heavy explosions… We heard planes flying over Kismayo and minutes later there were at least three explosions,’ resident Mohamed Ali told AFP by phone. ‘The aircraft fired heavy missiles into a jungle area where the Shebab established training camps, but we don’t know more,’ Abdikarim Samow, another resident, told AFP. There were no further reports of a strike.
September 21 2011
Armed drones were operating from Mahe in the Seychelles (along with those used purely for surveillance), the Washington Post reported: ‘In the Seychelles, an archipelago in the Indian Ocean…a small fleet of “hunter-killer” drones resumed operations this month after an experimental mission demonstrated that the unmanned aircraft could effectively patrol Somalia from there.’ Seychelles foreign minister Jean-Paul Adam denied the drones were armed. However, a 2009 diplomatic cable stated the US ‘would seek discrete [sic], specific discussions … to gain approval’ to arm the Reapers in the Seychelles ‘should the desire to do so ever arise’.
September 25 2011
♦ Unknown casualties
The United States launched a series of drone attacks on al-Shabaab in Kismayo, according to residents, who reported attacks on three locations. The BBC claimed that ‘al-Shabaab are patrolling the streets, preventing locals from using the hospital, which is treating their wounded.’ A large drone was said to have crashed. Al Shahbaab official Sheikh Ibrahim Guled told Reuters:
This plane was a spy for the American government and by the will of Allah, it crashed near the airport. We did not target it but it fell down.
Type of action: Air operation, drone strikes
References: BBC, Voice of America, Reuters, Global Post, Antiwar, The Scotsman, AllAfrica, Mareeg, Somalia Today, Somalia Report, Critical Threats
October 6 2011
♦ 4 total reported killed
♦ 4 civilians reported killed
♦ 1 person injured
Four Somali farmers were reported to have been killed in a possible drone strike in Dolbiyow Village, 35km east of Dhobley, said Somalia Report, while one was reportedly injured. The farmers and their camels were killed moments after al-Shabaab fighters fled the area in vehicles, witnesses said. However, a TFG official told Somalia Report Al-Shabaab had mortared the village.
Type of action: Possible air operation, drone strike
Reference: Somalia Report
October 13 2011
♦ Unknown casualties
♦ Possible civilian casualties
A single source, Somalia Report, claimed there had been attacks on an al Shabaab base near Taabta village, Lower Juba, though it is not clear who was behind the strikes. Drones targeted an al-Shabaab base used to train new fighters, according to TFG military official Mohamed Hassan Bule. ‘We are aware of the operations. It completes today’s operation on the group by the Somali National Forces. The airstrikes were carried out by drones from a friendly nation and destroyed a very important and large base ten kilometers east of Taabta. They used the base to train a misguided generation’, Bule told Somalia Report. Casualty numbers were unknown, with some local sources saying that civilians were also affected.
Type of action: Air operation, drone strike
Reference: Somalia Report
October 22 2011
♦ 11 total reported killed
♦ 11 civilians reported killed
♦ 20 civilians reported injured
At least 11 civilians died and more than 20 others were wounded after a possible US drone attacked on Afmadow town in Lower Jubba region, according to a single source. ‘I have seen 11 bodies and we believe that it was a US airstrike,’ Mohamud Abdirahman, an eyewitness, told Somalia Report. Locals said they had sighted what they believed to be US drones hovering above the area in the previous few days.
Type of action: Possible air operation, drone strike
Location: Afmadow, Lower Jubba
Reference: Somalia Report
October 23 2011
♦ 0-1 reported killed
Either the US or France launched airstrikes on al Shabaab positions in Kismayo. Kenyan military spokesman Major Emanuel Chirchir said the strike was in support of the Kenyan Defence Force advance in southern Somalia. ‘Everybody is in theatre,’ he told the New York Times. ‘They are complementary.’ He would not name who carried out the attack but said: ‘Everyone knows who is fighting the terrorists, they are the same partners who are always fighting al Qaeda.’ Two ‘senior American officials in Washington’ told the paper the US had not carried out the attacks. The French also denied they carried out the attacks or were responsible for a naval bombardment in the preceding days. Lieutenant Colonel Mohamed Farah Dahir, a Somali army spokesman, said Kenyan jets were responsible for the attack that killed an al Shabaab commander. Al Shabaab denied they suffered any casualties, saying a Kenyan jet launched the strike. A local resident told Reuters:
A jet bombarded an al Shabaab base near the port. It dropped a huge shell, flew past, came and then dropped another shell…The whole town shook. We’ve never heard anything like it. Everyone ran away.
October 27 2011
The US confirmed a new drone base at Arba Minch in Ethopia was now operational and that flights had already started from the site. The Washington Post reported armed Reapers were flying from the site, although US officials told the BBC and Al Jazeera the base was being used for surveillance flights only. The US government was reported to have spent millions of dollars adding drone facilities to Arba Minch’s small civilian airport. The Ethiopian foreign ministry denied a the facility was a military base: spokesman Tesfaye Yilma told the Washington Post, ‘We don’t entertain foreign military bases in Ethiopia’. Captain John Kirby of the US Department of Defence told Al Jazeera: ‘There are no US military bases in Ethiopia. It’s an Ethiopian airfield.’
October 30 2011
♦ 5-15 killed
♦ 5 civilians reported killed, including 3 children
♦ 45-47 reported wounded
A refugee camp for those displaced by the severe drought was hit in a Kenyan air strike. Aid agency Medecin Sans Frontieres (MSF) reported the strike hit at around 1.30pm. The agency’s employees witnessed the strike on the camp which is home to 1,500 families. According to MSF Holland’s Head of Mission in Somalia Gautam Chatterjee: ‘In our hospital in Marare, we received 31 children, nine women and five men. All of them of with shrapnel injuries.’
A spokesman for Kenya’s military said the country’s jets had killed 10 alleged al Shabaab insurgents. Somalia’s defence minister said the strike had targeted an al Shabaab convoy in Jilib. Both denied reports of civilian casualties.
The incident at the IDP camp developed following enemy actions in the area. Upon the aerial attack an Al Shabaab driver drove off a technical battle wagon mounted with a ZSU 2-3 anti aircraft gun, towards the IDP camp. The wagon was on fire and laden with explosives, it exploded while at the camp causing the reported deaths and injuries.
November 14 2011
♦ 0-2 reported killed
Missiles were fired at a training camp in Afgoye, Lower Shabelle, according to al Shabaab. An initial report from the Sunatimes stated: ‘[a] US drone attack killed leaders Ahmed Godane and Hassan Dahir Aweys.’ But Michael Logan, then editor of Somalia Report, later tweeted ‘Looks like the deaths of al-Shabaab leaders were greatly exaggerated by the TFG, as usual.’ A junior al Shabaab member allegedly told Somalia Report that the group suffered ‘some casualties.’ Associated Press debated who was responsible for the alleged strikes, with both French and US officials suggesting the other nation may have carried out the attacks.
December 13 2011
Addressing American troops in Djibouti, US defence secretary Leon Panetta said US operations against al Qaeda were concentrating on key groups in Yemen, Somalia and North Africa:
Al Qaeda is what started this war and we have made a commitment that we are going to track these guys wherever they go and make sure they have no place to hide, and that’s what the effort here is all about – to make sure that they have no place to hide, whether it’s Yemen or it’s Somalia or anyplace else.
December 13 2011
A US surveillance drone crashed in the Seychelles during a routine patrol, reported the Telegraph. ‘The Seychelles-based MQ-9s, which are used to monitor piracy activities in and around the Indian Ocean, don’t carry weapons, though they have the capability to do so… The US has used drones to hunt down al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia and Yemen, among other countries. Their humming is a constant feature in the sky in many of the major towns in southern Somalia, especially the capital city and the militant-controlled southern port of Kismayo.’
December 28 2011
A major report in the Washington Post examined drone strikes sanctioned by the Obama administration. The Post reporters spoke to a ‘senior administration official’ who stated that in Somalia, ‘the US administration has only allowed a handful of strikes, out of concern that a broader campaign could turn al-Shabab from a regional menace into an adversary determined to carry out attacks on US soil.’
Reference: Washington Post
January 21 2012
♦ 1+ reported killed
Three missiles fired from a suspected drone operated by JSOC killed British-Lebanese militant Bilal al-Berjawi, also known as Abu Hafsa. The US intelligence services and military had had him under surveillance for days according to the Associated Press Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage said:
At around 1400, a US drone targeted our mujahideen. One foreigner, a Lebanese with a British passport, died.
A witness who gave his name as Osman told the New York Times there were two strikes: ‘One hit a car, which I believe held explosives.’ The strike was confirmed to AP by a US official in Washington. Berjawi was known to have been injured in airstrikes in June 2011 (SOM010) and was suspected to have sought medical assistance in Nairobi at that time. The Guardian reported Berjawi’s wife was understood to have given birth to a child in a London hospital a few hours before the attack, prompting suspicions that his location had been pinpointed through a telephone conversation between the couple. The killing caused a rift within al-Qaeda, reports suggested, with al-Shabaab calling an emergency meeting after the drone strike, amid accusations that leaders ‘may be involved in this latest killing to pursue their own goals’. In February 2013 an investigation by the Bureau and published by The Independent revealed Berjawi had his British citizenship stripped by the UK’s Home Secretary. a British-Lebanese citizen who came to the UK as a baby and grew up in London, but left for Somalia in 2009 with his close friend British-born Mohamed Sakr, killed in February 2012 (SOM015). They were among more than 20 people to lose their British citizenship at the order of successive Home Secretary.
In July 2012 al Shabaab executed three militants who they accused of spying for the CIA and MI6. Ishaq Omar Hassan, 22, and Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23, were accused of working for the Americans. Al Shabaab official Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdallah said they ‘had fixed a device on Bilal el Berjawi’s car and then he was killed by a plane in Elasha six months ago.’ Abu Abdallah said 33-year-old Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed had been working for the British.
Type of action: Air operation, drone strike
Location: Elasha Biyaha, 15km south of Mogadishu
Reference: Somalia Report, Al Shabaab press, Long War Journal, Associated Press, The Guardian, Somalia Report, New York Times, The Telegraph, Reuters, Long War Journal, allAfrica.com, Global Post, Associated Press, Associated Press, Reuters, The Bureau, The Bureau
January 21 2012
♦ 6 reported killed
Further south, another airstrike killed six people near the insurgent stronghold of Kismayo, according to Sheikh Mohamud Abdi, a senior al-Shabaab commander. It is not known whether the strike was by US or Kenyan forces. Kenya sent troops into Somalia in October amid concerns that Somalia’s 21-year-old civil war was spilling over the countries’ border.
Type of action: Reported air operation, possible US airstrike
January 22 2012
People fled their homes in the rebel-held area of Elasha Biyaha on the outskirts of Mogadishu, ‘for fear of drone attacks targeting foreign and Al-Shabaab militants in the area’, Somali radio station Bar Kulan reported. The station’s correspondent said most were women and children who had earlier left the capital and camped in Elasha Biyaha, but had returned following the previous day’s strikes. Somalia Report stated they spoke with a resident who lived near the site of SOM019. ‘We are scared of more strikes because Al-Shabaab fighters live around here and they might be potential targets … Shrapnel and dust was flying away from the impact area and if it happens again it might be fatal,‘ he told Somalia Report.
January 25 2012
Reported killed: 9 pirates
A US Special Forces raid freed two aid workers, American Jessica Buchanan and Dane Poul Hagen Thisted, who had been kidnapped by pirates. According to Associated Press, the task force involved in the rescue was Navy Seal Team Six – the team that killed Osama Bin Laden.
February 3 2012
A surveillance drone reportedly crashed in a refugee camp in Mogadishu. There were no reported casualties and nothing to indicate the origins of the drone. According to AP, refugees and soldiers in Badbado camp said they watched the drone crash into a hut ‘made of sticks, corrugated cans and plastic bags’.
Reference: Associated Press
February 9 2012
In a video posted on Islamist forums, Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri said that Al Shabaab had officially joined the al Qaeda global network. According to the Telegraph, ‘analysts said the move appeared partly a propaganda gambit by an al Qaeda leadership weakened by drone strikes and a failure to carry out a major successful attack in the West since 2005′. AllAfrica noted that Al Shabaab had offered fealty to Al Qaeda in September 2009. Leader Ahmed Abdi Godane said his militia was ‘at the service of jihad under the stewardship of Bin Laden.’ But at the time bin Laden was non-committal.
February 21-23 2012
In diplomatic moves relating to the London conference on Somalia, Britain said it would contribute £20m to a ‘stability fund’ for Somalia, which will pay for a civilian force of ‘chino-clad warriors’ to assist the Somali government. In addition, the Guardian reported that Britain and other EU countries were ‘considering helicopters from warships to mount offshore raids on the logistical hubs and training camps belonging to pirates and al-Shabaab militants in the country’. A Whitehall source told the newspaper: ‘We don’t have the assets in place…that does not mean we could not get them in the air quickly.’ Another official added, ‘there was no political will on this to begin with, but that has been changing. We know where the camps are, where they set up and where they launch from.’ In an interview with the BBC Somali service, David Cameron explained the threat he believed al Shabaab posed: ‘Al-Shabaab encourages violent jihad not just in Somalia but also outside Somalia,’ he said. ‘And there is a very real danger of young British Somalis having their minds poisoned by this organisation.’ But at the conference US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared to contradict aspects of current US military policy in Somalia. Asked about the viability of airstrikes she said:
I am not a military strategist, but I think I know enough to say that airstrikes would not be a good idea. And we have absolutely no reason to believe anyone, certainly not the United States, anyone is considering that.
An American official in Washington confirmed the attack was carried out by a United States drone. A second official said an “international” member of the Shabab was the target of the strike, though he said a white Kenyan reported killed in the attack was not the target..
Al Shabaab identified one of the dead as Moroccan Sheikh Abu Ibrahim. According to Reuters: ‘A very senior Egyptian was killed. Three Kenyans and a Somali also died.’ AFP reported that the strike targeted an al Qaeda commander in his vehicle, destroying the car and killing him. Also among those reported killed was a man named only as Sakr, the former deputy of Bilal al-Berjawi killed on January 22 (SOM014). The Bureau subsequently revealed his full name was London-born Mohamed Sakr. A February 2013 investigation by the Bureau, published by the Independent, uncovered Sakr had his British citizenship stripped by the UK’s Home Secretary. He was one of more than 20 people to lose their British citizenship at the order of successive Home Secretary, including Berjawi. The practice was compared to ‘medieval exile’ by leading human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
Sakr’s later said they believed the loss of his UK citizenship left their son vulnerable to attack by the US. ‘I’ll never stop blaming the British government for what they did to my son. They broke my family’s back,’ his father told the Bureau.
More than a year after the attack German journalists identified a civilian killed in the attack. Mohammed Abdullahi, 50, had taken his animals to pasture when the drones struck, according to a joint investigation by newspaper Sud Deutsche Zeitung and Germany’s national broadcaster NDR. His son Slaman, 34
A civilian told Reuters that fighter jets roared overhead before a loud blast ripped through the night air. Hassan, a local resident said: ‘First we saw a huge flash and then a big explosion shook the ground… Later we saw a huge crater and nearby trees were burned.’ Al Shabaab confirmed the strike but ‘said it was not clear if the dead were its fighters or civilians.’ The strike targeting was reportedly provided by two al Shabaab miliants Ishaq Omar Hassan, 22, and Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23. The two were accused of providing targeting information for the CIA to kill Bilal al Berjawi (SOM019) and were executed in July 2012 along with 33-year-old Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed accused of spying for Britain’s MI6.
Type of action: Air operation, drone strike
Location: Lower Shabelle, 60km south of Mogadishu
References: Reuters, BBC, AFP, Voice of America, The Nation (Kenya), Associated Press, Al Jazeera, Associated Press, The Standard (Kenya), Sydney Morning Herald, Reuters, Hiiraan, The Star (Kenya), Sabahi Online, Homeland Security Policy Institute (pdf), The Bureau, The Bureau, SD/NDR
March 17 2012
Alabama-born jihadist and US citizen Omar Hammami, also known as Abu Mansour al-Amriki, revealed a rift within Al Shabaab when he released a video in which he declared that his life at risk. ‘I record this message today because I feel that my life may be endangered by Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of the sharia and matters of strategy.’ Al Shabaab tweeted that al-Amriki ‘was not endangered’. Yet reports emerged the following day that the al Qaeda-linked group had arrested al-Amriki and taken him into custody. It was later claimed that Hammami was executed by Al Shabaab on April 5.
March 23 2012
The European Union authorised possible ground strikes in Somalia as it extended its Operation Atlanta anti-piracy mission until December 2014. An EU statement said ‘the force’s area of operations to include Somali coastal territory as well as its territorial and internal waters.’ AFP cited Spanish foreign minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo:
The EU plan is to allow attacks on land installations when ships are assaulted at sea.
April 17 2012
♦ 2 reported injured
‘Unknown military jets fired several missiles’ at a suspected Somali pirate base in the northern autonomous region of Puntland a coastguard official told AFP. At least two people were reported injured. The air strike came near midnight and is apparently unprecedented as it targeted pirates, not al Shabaab. Muse Jama, an elder, told AFP the two aircraft that attacked his village ‘came from the sea.’ Which nation the aircraft belong to is unknown. The European Union’s anti-piracy operation has been authorised to launch strikes on Somali coastal territory. But a spokesman told AFP the EU was ‘not involved whatsoever’ in the strike and refused to comment on who was.
May 15 2012
♦ 0 reported casualties
The European Union (EU) launched attack helicopter and ‘maritime aircraft’ strikes on an alleged pirate base near Haradheere. Stating that there had been no EU ‘boots on the ground’ reports indicated that helicopters from the EU’s Naval Force (NAVFOR) had destroyed nine speedboats, an arms dump and fuel supplies in a night-time raid.
Bile Hussein, a pirate commander, later told Associated Press: ‘They destroyed our equipment to ashes. It was a key supplies center for us,” Hussein said. “The fuel contributed to the flames and destruction. Nothing was spared.’ The pirates responded angrily to the strike and pirate commander Abdi Yare told AFP ‘If they continue attacking Somali coastal villages, then there will be terrible consequences.’ Although no casualties were recorded fisherman Mohammed Hussein alleged fishing boats were destroyed in the operation. ‘We are very much worried that fishermen will die in such operations,’ he added. Speaking to the Bureau, NAVFOR spokeswoman Lt Cmdr Sheriff acknowledged some pirate camps were also used by fishermen but said the target of the strike had been a known pirate base with no fishing activity. NAVFOR commander Rear Admiral Duncan Potts said of the attack:
The EU Naval Force action against pirate supplies on the shoreline is merely an extension of the disruption actions carried out against pirate ships at sea. We believe this action by the EU Naval Force will further increase the pressure on and disrupt pirates’ efforts to get out to sea and attack merchant shipping and dhows.
Although the EU did not reveal which nations had taken part in the attack, AP reported that newly-commissioned French amphibious assault ship Dixmude, part of NAVFOR, carries Tigre helicopter gunships. But NAVFOR spokesman Timo Lange told the Bureau the Dixmude had left the EU flotilla around at the end of April, returning to French naval command. Lt Cmdr Sherriff told the Bureau the attack was carried out with helicopters ‘organic to the ships we have with us’ and that small arms fire was used for the attack. But ‘an intelligence operative close to EU anti-piracy operations’ told Defence Report EU ground forces did lead the strike, saying the destruction of the pirates’ fast boats could only have been achieved with a ground assault.
EU foreign policy spokesman Michael Mann said that ‘This action against piracy is part of a comprehensive EU approach to the crisis in Somalia, where we support a lasting political solution on land.’ A Royal Navy source told the Daily Telegraph it was a good time to step up attacks on pirate infrastructure. The source continued:
However, the Somalis will certainly be better prepared next time round and are likely to defend their bases with significant anti-aircraft assets now they know that the ante has been upped. This will inevitably lead to bloodshed and escalation.
The EU had paved the way for the strikes in a March 23 decision allowing it to target Somalia’s ‘territorial, coastal and internal waters.’
Type of action: Air operation, helicopter strikes
Location: Handulle near Haradheere, Somalia coastline
References: Irish Times, Bloomberg, Reuters, Die Welte, Associated Press, BBC, EU NAVFOR, EU High Representative, Christian Science Monitor, Associated Press, Daily Telegraph, AFP, Defence Report
June 7 2012
More than seven weeks after the last recorded American action in Somalia the US administration added seven al Shabaab leaders to the so-called ‘kill list’ of drone targets. This followed Newsweek revealing the US military had put President Obama’s advisers under pressure to expand the drone targeting list to include members of the African militant group. Agencies reported the US State Department would be be adding leading figures in the militant group to its Rewards for Justice programme. Under the scheme the Secretary of State can offer a bounty of up to $25 million for information that prevents terrorist attacks on US citizens or property. US officials told the Associated Press the administration would offer up to $7 million for information about al Shabaab founder Ahmed Abdi aw Mohamed and up to $5 million apiece for his associates Ibrahim Haji Jama, Fuad Mohamed Khalaf, Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud and Mukhtar Robow. Robow was one of three suspected militants Newsweek reported the US military was trying to add to the kill list in late 2010.
The military wanted to hit three top Al-Shabab leaders. The two lawyers agreed on a pair of the targets, but Koh differed on the case of Sheikh Mukhtar Robow. He had studied the intelligence and saw credible evidence that Robow represented a less extreme faction of Al-Shabab that was opposed to attacking America. While Johnson was fine with targeting Robow, Koh forcefully insisted that the ‘killing would be unlawful.’ Robow was removed from the targeting list.
Up to $3 million each were offered each for Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi and Abdullahi Yare. Robert Hartung, an assistant director at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security said adding these names to the list shows the U.S. government ‘takes the fight against terrorism very seriously.’
June 15 2012
In what was viewed by some as a significant move towards greater transparency, the United States officially acknowledged for the first time its military combat operations in Somalia and Yemen. In Somalia all strikes are thought to have been carried out by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command. A letter from President Obama to Congress – a six monthly obligation under the War Powers Resolution passed in 1973 – stated:
In Somalia, the U.S. military has worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and al-Qa’ida-associated elements of al-Shabaab. In a limited number of cases, the U.S. military has taken direct action in Somalia against members of al-Qa’ida, including those who are also members of al-Shabaab, who are engaged in efforts to carry out terrorist attacks against the United States and our interests.
There were similar references to operations in Yemen. Previously any such details were reported only in a confidential annex to the reports. The Wall Street Journal noted that much of the impetus for partial disclosure came from General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His spokesman told the paper: ‘When U.S. military forces are involved in combat anywhere in the world, and information about those operations does not compromise national or operational security, Gen. Dempsey believes the American public should be kept appropriately informed.’ But the paper also noted that ‘officials said details about specific strikes in Yemen and Somalia would continue to be kept secret.’
The unexpected move by Obama came three days after 26 members of the US Congress wrote to Obama urging him to be transparent on covert drone strikes. They wrote:
The implications of the use of drones for our national security are profound. They are faceless ambassadors that cause civilian deaths, and are frequently the only direct contact with Americans that the targeted communities have. They can generate powerful and enduring anti-American sentiment.
The American Civil Liberties Union, while welcoming the partial declassification of military strikes in Yemen and Somalia, called for further disclosure: ‘The public is entitled to more information about the legal standards that apply, the process by which they add names to the kill list, and the facts they rely on in order to justify targeted killings.’ And Steve Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists told the New York Times: ‘While any voluntary disclosure is welcome, this is not much of a breakthrough. The age of secret wars is over. They were never a secret to those on the receiving end.’
Location: Washington DC
References: The White House, The Pentagon, Wall Street Journal, Associated Press, National Public Radio, AntiWar.com, Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington Examiner, Letter from US Congressmen, Al Jazeera
June 27 2012
An investigation by the Daily Beast found that in one Somali prison, 16 inmates had been captured by US forces and handed over. A Pentagon official confirmed that the US was ‘returning them to their government, and their government takes them.’ The men appeared to be a mixture of pirates and al-Shabaab members. The investigation also featured an interview with Ahmad Mohammed Ali, an 18-year old al-Shabaab member who described being interviewed by US interrogators shortly after capture. As the Daily Beast reported:
Ali was arrested by the Puntland Security Force at the end of 2011 in a raid against Al-Shabaab in Bosaso. A semi-autonomous region of Somalia, Puntland is a US ally in the war on terrorism and piracy, and its president, Abdirahman Mohamud Farole, says US military and CIA advisers work closely with his security force. Two US military officials confirmed this.
Eli Lake at Bosaso Central Prison
Location: Bosaso, Somalia
Reference: The Daily Beast
July 22 2012
Al Shabaab executed three of its members for treason. The men were accused of spying for Western agencies. Ishaq Omar Hassan, 22, and Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23, were allegedly working for the CIA. Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed, 33, was said to be working for MI6. Omar Hassan and Osman Ahmed were accused of providing the CIA with targeting information for two drone strikes. In one they were alleged to have attached a tracking device to the car of British-Lebanese militant Bilal al Berjawi (YEM015). The three were shot by firing squad in front of local citizens, with ‘hundreds of Marka residents gathered to watch the execution.’
July 25 2012
A UN report noted that so many unmanned drones were operating in Somali airspace that they risked a major air traffic incident, and may be violating the UN’s long-standing arms embargo. The report, from the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia, noted that some of small drones were attached to African Union troops. However, the use of US Reapers or Predators in kill operations would ‘be operating in violation of the embargo’, according to the UN’s Matthew Bryden. As the Washington Post notes
The United Nations said it had documented 64 unauthorized flights of drones, fighter jets or attack helicopters in Somalia since June 2011. At least 10 of those flights involved drones, according to the report, which provided dates and locations but few other details. UN officials said they catalogued the flights from ‘confidential international agency security reports’ and press reports.’
August 23 2012
♦ Unknown casualties
Air strikes ‘reportedly from international forces’ targeted ‘a mountainous area near town of Qandala’. Garowe Online said it was not clear if aircraft or ships from ‘international forces’ carried out the strike. Foreign warships had been patrolling the Gulf of Aden waters around Qandala for days. According to Qandala residents, aircraft that ‘had been doing surveillance on the coastal town for days’ carried out the attack. Puntland officials told Garowe Online al Shabaab militants were ‘trying to set up new area of operations in mountains east of Bossaso’, which are near Qandala.
Type of action: Air operation or naval operation
Location: Qandala, Puntland
References: Garowe Online
September 12 2012
The new Somali president avoided assassination two days after his election. Three suicide bombers attacked the Jazeera Palace hotel, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s temporary residence. Two succeeded in detonating their explosives and one was shot and killed by security forces. The president and the Kenyan foreign minister Samson Ongeri were holding a press conference in the hotel when the bombs went off.
‘Mohamud remained calm, though he winced at the sound of every gunshot. He didn’t take cover. He kept talking, determined not to let the chaos affect him,’ reported the Washington Post. Eight were killed; the bombers, three Somali soldiers and two Amisom peacekeepers. The President and Ongeri were unharmed. An al Shabaab spokesman said: ‘We were behind the Mogadishu hotel blasts. It was a well-planned Mujaheddin operation.’ The hotel is a mile from the heavily fortified Mogadishu airport, in what is considered one of the safest parts of the city.
Mohamud was selected for the presidency by 190 members of the 275 seat parliament in a second round run-off. The margin was called ‘a landslide victory that represented a stinging condemnation of the status quo, and an unequivocal vote for change.’ He beat the favourite to the presidency, the previous encumbent Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The parliament itself had been selected three weeks before. Mohamud, chairman of the Peace and Development Party, was described as an ‘academic and activist‘, and linked to the ‘al-Islah party, the Somali equivalent of the Muslim Brotherhood.’
The election was welcomed by Somalia’s neighbours and the international community. In a statement Hilary Clinton congratulated the new president. She said: ‘We applaud these steps toward a responsive, representative and accountable government and Hassan Sheikh’s commitment to inclusive governance. But there is still more work to be done.’
References: Al Jazeera, Voice of America, Raxanreeb/RBC, Reuters, AFP, Voice of America, Mareeg, US State Department, Somalia Report, Washington Post, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, Washington Post
September 25 2012
♦ Unknown casualties
The Kenyan Air Force attacked the airport in Kismayo. The jets dropped three bombs and destroyed an armoury and warehouse in the al Shabaab-controlled city, said Kenyan military spokesman Cyrus Oguna. He also said the jets fired more than 10 missiles on the city but did not kill any civilians. Al Shabaab denied there any damage was caused or casualties sustained in a post on a social media site. Casualty figures could not be determined because militants sealed off the airport. The strike was reported as preparation for an assault by Kenyan troops fighting as a part of Amisom, and Ethiopians independent of the peacekeeping force. Their lines were 60 km outside Kismayo.
September 28 2012
♦ 4+ reported killed
♦ 1+ civilian reported killed
Kenyan forces stormed Kismayo in a pre-dawn assault, capturing parts of the port city. They attacked with Somalia National Army forces from the land and sea in what was dubbed ‘Operation Sledge Hammer‘. The assault was underway by 2am (2300 GMT) but there were reports of fighting on the beaches and helicopters strafing al Shabaab positions as fighting continued through the day. The BBC reported Kenyan troops landed on beaches 10 km (6 miles) north of Kismayo, al Shabaab’s last stronghold in southern Somalia. Six or seven Kenyan warships were involved in the assault. Kenyan Defence Force spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said the attacking forces met little resistance. He said:
Kenyan maritime forces with Somali national army assistance landed with full surprise early this morning. There is some fighting still continuing, but we are in control.
Al Shabaab denied they were retreating. telling the BBC none of the city had fallen. Casualty figures were not immediately known but Aamina (34) ‘said she had seen four bodies on Friday morning, including those of civilians.’An eyewitness reported there were white troops among Amisom forces manning checkpoints north of Kismayo. US Special Forces were known to be operating in Somalia however US Africa Command said it was ‘not participating in Kenya’s military activities in the region.’
Kismayo was strategically important for al Shabaab. It was the last major town under their control and their last deep water port. The militants supported itself financially and logistically through Kismayo. They brought in arms and exported charcoal, among other commodities, to continue fighting. International Crisis Group analyst Abdirashid Hashi said the fall of Kismayo would be a psychological blow to al Shabaab. But the loss of funding would hurt them less as the group would become a smaller guerrilla force. He said:
The die-hard members will continue with their destabilization strategy of targeted killings, suicide bombings and IEDs (roadside bombs)…The low-level footsoldiers will just see them as a losing proposition.
An elder called Abdi Buule said KDF troops had arrested about 160 people, fearing al Shabaab would hide among the population. More than 10,000 people had fled the city in the week before, and the previous day Kenyan aircraft had dropped leaflets warning the remaining civilians to run. The Kenyan ground forces were fighting as part of Amisom, the African Union peacekeeping force. Kenyan naval forces took part in the attack and had been shelling Kismayo in the preceding days. But the warships were not part of Amisom, according to the UK Permanent Representative to the UN Mark Lyall Grant.
Type of action: Amisom amphibious assault, ground assault
References: Xinhua, Garowe Online, ITV News, Capital FM, al Jazeera, Guardian, PTI, BBC, Voice of America, Daily Telegraph, Reuters, Financial Times, Raxanreeb Online, BBC, Washington Post
October 26 2012
The US military confirmed for the first time that armed drones fly out of Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, ‘the busiest Predator drone base outside of Afghan war zone’. About 300 JSOC personnel coordinate drone sorties and counterterrorism raids in Somalia from the 500-acre base. On August 20 the Defence Department told Congress sixteen drones take-off or land every day from the base. In a detailed investigation the Washington Post revealed these flights are coordinated from Lemonnier by a JSOC major known as ‘Frog’. The drones fly usually for 20 to 22 hours, the paper revealed. They can be over Somalia ‘in minutes’. The drones are launched, recovered and maintained by the 87-member 60th Air Force Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. Commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas McCurley, the squadron has adopted a ‘uniform patch emblazoned with a skull, crossbones and a suitable nickname: “East Africa Air Pirates”‘. In October 2010 the Pentagon sent eight Predator drones to turn Lemonnier into a ‘full-time drone base’. And the Pentagon plans to expand their operation. In August 2012 the US military told Congress it wanted to spend $1.4bn increase the capacity to store munitions and arm aircraft. The developments will also increase the number of JSOC personnel to 1,100.
Reference: Washington Post
January 12 2013
♦ 27-28 killed
♦ 8 civilians, including 1 child
♦ 0-1 reported wounded
French commandoes failed to a rescue a French spy held hostage by al Shabaab since 2009. Paris claimed the militants executed the captured secret service agent, known by his alias Denis Allex, during an assault by 50 Special Forces troops. However al Shabaab’s media wing said the hostage survived. Seventeen alleged militants were reportedly killed and eight civilians died, including a child and both his parents. Four civilians were killed when they were woken by helicopters landing. They were reportedly shot when they turned on flashlights. Survivors warned the militants of the advancing French force. Al Shabaab claimed they had moved Allex to a new location before the attack although French and Somali government sources said he was killed by his captors during the attack. The militant commander Shiekh Ahmed was reportedly killed in the gunfight. One French commando was killed and another was wounded. The injured soldier was taken by al Shabaab who said he subsequently died of his wounds.
At least five helicopters ferried the commandoes from amphibious assault ship Mistral to Bulo Marer. The French force underestimated the resistance they would face, reported AFP. An anonymous Somali aid worker told the agency: ‘We were told there were about 40 of them against more than 100 heavily armed Shebab fighters. Their mission was impossible and not very professional.’ The US provided ‘limited technical support‘ to the French operation. US Air Force strike fighters entered Somali air space but did not fire their weapons. The operation was reportedly timed to coincide with a French air and ground offensive in Mali. Paris denied the two African operations were connected.
Reference: Long War Journal, Daily Telegraph, France 24, Al Shabaab Press Release, BBC, Reuters, Associated Press, Associated Press, Aviation Week, The New York Times, AFP, Shabelle Media Network, Al Shabaab Press Release
April 14 2013
A coordinated assault on Mogadishu left more than 90 reported dead or wounded. As many 35 people were killed by a nine or 10 gunmen wearing explosive vests. The suicide squad burst into the court complex in the capital and fought ‘an extended gun battle’ with court guards, witnesses told the New York Times. Foreign fighters reportedly took part in the attack. Somali investigators told the Toronto Star that they believe a Canadian militant Mahad Ali Dhore organised the assault. The paper said Dhore left Toronto four years earlier to join al Shabaab. There were unconfirmed reports that a second Canadian and an unspecified number of Swedish fighters may have taken part in the attack. Western officials said al Qaeda is trying to assert itself in Somalia and that the explosive devices used in the attack were more sophisticated than normal. They said this suggested al Qaeda was more involved in this operation than in previous attacks. Al Shabaab warned the attacks would not stop. Spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters: ‘Yesterday’s blasts eliminated the dreams of the puppet government. More lethal attacks are coming.’
Somali journalists working for the court as media advisors were reportedly killed. And several human rights lawyers were killed including Mohamed Mohamud Afrah, the head of the Somali Lawyers Association, and Abdikarin Hassan Gorod, who won the release of a Somali journalist jailed for interviewing an alleged rape victim. CNN reported as many as 60 people were wounded in the gunfight. Later in the day a car bomb detonated outside a government building near the airport. It hit a vehicle carrying Turkish aid officials. A Somali driver was reportedly killed and three Turks were wounded. More than 400 people were detained in a major security operation said senior police officer Mohamed Hassan. Soldiers were stopping all vehicles and arresting people at road blocks across the city. Yusuf Ganey, a witness, told AFP: ‘I saw nearly 300 people who were detained and blindfolded near the industrial road. Everyone the security forces set eyes on today is getting arrested…This is not a normal operation.’
Four days after the attack al Shabaab released a statement explaining that since January ‘the Mujahideen have been conducting a series of coordinated attacks against the coalition of disbelievers’. The group claimed it had ‘succeeded in eliminating more than 127 apostate intelligence officials and mid-level operatives and spies since the launch of the campaign’.
May 27 2013
A US drone crashed in southern Somalia, possibly brought down by militant gunfire. The Pentagon has confirmed it was a US aircraft although would not comment on what kind of drone crashed. US officials told Politico: ‘During the course of a routine surveillance mission along the coast of Somalia on May 27, a military remotely piloted aircraft crashed in a remote area near the shoreline of Mogadishu.’ The governor of Lower Shabelle Abdikadir Mohamed Nur said al Shabaab militants shot the drone down, telling Reuters militants fired on the aircraft for several hours before it crashed.
The the US denied this saying it was ‘highly unlikely’ that the militants had brought it down considering the altitude it would have been flying at. Al Shabaab posted images of what was purportedly a US drone to Twitter. However they did not claim to shoot it down, only saying it crashed. In one image posted on Twitter by al Shabaab showed a piece of debris inscribed with ‘Schiebel’, the name of a Vienna-based defence manufacturer who make a helicopter drone, the S-100 Camcopter. This fired speculation that the drone belonged to a number of other nations, including France which has reportedly been testing the Camcopter. The drone crashed near where French commandoes failed to rescue a captured spy in January this year.
September 21 – September 24 2013
More than 67 people were killed in a brutal, prolonged attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Al Shabaab militants stormed the Westgate shopping complex, taking hostages and indiscriminately shooting civilians. The attack was reportedly meticulously planned and executed by the militants. They had built up secret weapon and amunition caches within the Westgate centre in the weeks and months before the attack. The four day siege ended with after Kenyan military forces stormed the buildings. One of the possible attackers was named as Hassan Abdi Dhuhlow by the BBC – a 23-year old Somali-born Norwegian.
October 5 2013
♦ 1-7 people reported killed
♦ 1 reported injured
US Special Forces attacked al Shabaab in a pre-dawn amphibious raid to capture a senior militant. It was not immediately clear who was the target. Reports varied from an unnamed Chechen; al Shabaab’s leader Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr (aka Ahmed Godane); or a Sudanese national. It later emerged Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir (aka Ikrima) was the target of the attack. He was listed in a Kenyan security services report as a leader of a plot to attack targets in Kenya in 2011 and 2012.
The assault itself was unsuccessful, Associated Press reported. Navy Seals attacked a house where foreign fighters lived at about 2.30am, according to Abu Mohamed, an al Shabaab fighter. But the troops reportedly met stiff resistance and unexpectedly found women and children were in the house. They retreated ‘after a 15-20 minute firefight’. The Toronto Star reported the US force had tipped al Shabaab off to the impending assault by jamming the internet minutes before attacking. Militant spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab likened the raid to a failed French Special Forces assault in January 2013.
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed US forces took part in the raid and multiple anonymous former and serving US officials told Associated Press US Seals carried out the assault. It was also not clear how many people were killed. Senior Mogadishu police officer Colonel Abdikadir Mohamed said seven died: five militants and two from the attacking forces. However US officials said none of their troops died. although al Shabaab tweeted two gruesome pictures purportedly of US soldiers they ‘executed’. A spokesman for the militants said one militant died but the Daily Telegraph reported two senior al Shabaab fighters were killed and a third was injured. Somali sources told the paper Abdi Qadar, a Swedish-Somali, and Awab al Uqba (aka Sheikh Abdirahim), a Sudanese, were killed. Al Uqba reportedly trained members of al Shabaab’s intelligence wing, Amniyat, which reportedly would have been central in the planning for the Westgate mall attack.
The attack coincided with a successful Special Forces raid in Libya. Hours after the aborted Somali raid soldiers from the US Army Delta Force snatched Nazih Abdul Hamed al Ruqai (aka Anas al Libi) from the streets of Tripoli. Al Ruqai was wanted for his part in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
In April 2014 it emerged that FBI agents had been working closely with JSOC in the years since the September 11 attacks. A Washington Post report said an agent from the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) was with the Seals when they stormed the beach in Barawe. An HRT agent was also reportedly with the Delta Force commandos when they snatched al Rauqai from the streets of Tripoli.
Type of action: Amphibious operation, ground assault
Location: Barawe, Lower Shabelle
References: Associated Press, Voice of America, Guardian, Associated Press, Reuters, Sky News, Daily Telegraph, AFP, Independent, CNN, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Associated Press, NBC, Guardian, Toronto Star, Washington Post
October 28 2013
♦ 2-3 reported killed
At least two people were killed in US Army drone strike on a vehicle. Senior al Shabaab commander Ibrahim Ali Abdi (aka Anta Anta) was killed in the attack, according to Abu Mohamed, an al Shabaab militant, and Somali Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled. Ali Abdi was widely described as al Shabaab’s leading bomb maker. He was reportedly responsible for attacks on UN and diplomatic missions, and a presidential palace in Hargeisa, Somaliland. An unnamed official said Ali Abdi was ‘a person of interest we had been tracking’, another said the US was ‘optimistic‘ he had died in the attack. Interior Minister Guled said Somali security services provided the US with intelligence for the attack. Abu Ali, Abdi’s ‘friend’, also died in the attack, Guled added.
Four witnesses reportedly said two men in a car died, the only reported casualties. Such precision suggested a drone carried out the attack. Anonymous US officials confirmed this, briefing that it was a US Army drone strike. Local resident Hassan Nur reportedly said:
I heard a big crash and saw a drone disappearing far into the sky, at least two militants died…I witnessed a Suzuki car burning, many al Shabaab men came to the scene. I could see them carry the remains of two corpses. It was a heavy missile that the drone dropped. Many cars were driving ahead of me but the drone targeted this Suzuki.
The two men were apparently travelling from Jilib, around 120km south of Mogadishu, to Barawe, an al Shabaab stronghold. Barawe was where US Special Forces failed to capture a senior al Shabaab militant in a daring raid more than three weeks earlier. A Somali intelligence source told the Associated Press the men were on their way to mediate a clan dispute.
Al Shabaab announced in March 2014 that it had executed a man they claimed had helped the US launch this strike. Mohamed Abdulle Gelle, 29, was one of three men executed by firing squad for apparently spying for the US and Somali governments.
Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Jilib, middle Juba region
References: Al Jazeera English, Reuters, BBC, Voice of America, Associated Press, AFP, Associated Press, ABC, CNN, The Times of London (£), Toronto Star, Garowe Online
January 9 2014
♦ 30-57 reported killed
♦ Up to 120 reported injured
Kenyan Defence Force jets killed as many as 57 alleged al Shabaab militants in a major air strike. The bombers reportedly hit a ‘remote base‘ base near the Kenyan and Ethiopian borders.
The jets targeted an meeting of al Shabaab and al Qaeda leaders, including al Shabaab commander Ahmed Godane. The attack missed Godane but killed ‘six senior foreign al Shabaab leaders’. Khaild Abu Abdrahaman, an Afghan mortar training expert, was included among the dead. Intelligence sources also said the attack killed ‘key foreign al Shabaab commanders Imran Abu Jilali from Pakistan, Shabdalla Al Manzur from Egypt, Alakim Nurala from Sudan, Abdul Hakim Mohamud an al Qaeda leader from Yemen and Shukri Bin Khalifa also from Yemen’. Two Kenyan alleged militants were reportedly among the dead. They were named as: Adan Adow and Idris Dheere. A third, Gama Dhere Mohammed, was reportedly either killed or injured.
The strike hit around 6pm, according to Cyrus Oguna, a KDF spokesman. Oguna said: ‘This strike is part of efforts to degrade al Shabaab by targeting their infrastructure, including command centers, communications centers and logistics.’ The attack was reportedly carried out after ‘an Amisom intelligence gathering exercise’.
Type of action: Kenyan Defence Force air strikes
Location: Birta Dhere, Gedo region
References: Bloomberg, BBC News, Daily Star, AFP, Capital FM, International Business Times, Arab News, Garowe Online, Associated Press, Daily Star, Daily Star
January 26 2014
♦ 2-9 reported killed
A US military drone strike reportedly targeted Ahmed Abdi Godane although it was not clear if the strike killed the leader of al Shabaab. The US did target the man but were not yet sure if they had killed him, anonymous US officials told CNN two days after the strike. Subsequent to the CNN report, a militant source and unnamed Amisom official told Voice of America Godane was near the site of the strike but escaped alive.
Initial reports said the strike hit a vehicle and killed an al Shabaab commander and others about 200 miles south of Mogadishu. However the initial reports identified the commander as Sahal Iskudhuq (aka Ahmed Abdulkadir). Voice of America reported Iskudhuq was one of Godane’s senior aide. Locals told RBC Radio he was a ‘senior figure’ in Amniyat, the militant group’s intelligence unit, adding that he was a Somali who had trained abroad and ‘fought along with senior foreign fighters in Somalia’. Voice of America reported Iskudhuq and Godane may have been meeting before the attack and ‘Godane was supposed to travel in the car that night’. The agency also reported claims ‘al Shabaab has since detained several people in Barawe on suspicion of spying’.
Al Shabaab commander Abu Mohamed told Associated Press Iskudhuq ‘had previously been in charge of kidnappings of foreigners and ransom deals for the group but recently turned to working with its intelligence unit’. Dhadaan added that he was close to al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane. The Pentagon said he was a senior member of both al Qaeda in East Africa and al Shabaab, the BBC reported. Voice of America reporter Harun Maruf tweeted further details about Iskudhuq:
Sources: Targeted #Shabab commander (Iskudhuuq) coordinated closely with Anta Anta who was killed in a separate drone strike last Oct.
— Harun Maruf (@harunmaruf) January 26, 2014
— Harun Maruf (@harunmaruf) January 26, 2014
An anonymous US official told the agency the target was a senior member of al Shabaab. Another said the US had ‘been tracking this guy for years’. Unnamed US officials also confirmed it was a US strike to Associated Press and Reuters. Somali intelligence also confirmed the attack on a ‘dangerous’ militant and added that a driver had also been killed. But local site Dhadaan, citing Somali-language media sources, said the attack targeted two vehicles and put the death toll at at least four according to ‘an anti shabab [sic] website’. It also quoted an eyewitness speaking to the BBC’s Somali-language service, who said he had seen a burnt-out car and that nine alleged al Shabaab members were killed.
Al Shabaab reportedly abducted 17 people, including four al Shabaab mambers, in apparent retaliation for this strike. They told an elder they were searching for people working for the US.
Type of action: Air strike, US drone strike
Location: Hawai, Lower Shabelle
References: Associated Press, RBC Radio, Dhanaan, Reuters, AFP, DPA, Associated Press, RBC Radio, Long War Journal, CNN, Voice of America
January 29 2014
The BBC interviewed an alleged al Shabaab member little over three months after the al Shabaab attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi left almost 70 dead. The unnamed fighter said he joined the armed group in 2007 because he was poor and jobless, and ‘al Shabaab came with that huge money’. He said most young Kenyans joining al Shabaab are ‘not because of jihad or because of Islam. It’s because of that money.’
BBC World Service interview with a former al Shabaab fighter.
September 1 2014
♦ 6 reported killed
The first known US attack in Somalia for more than seven months killed the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane (aka Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr or Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed).
US drones and conventional air craft, flown by special forces operatives from JSOC, targeted an encampment and vehicles in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia. At least six people were reportedly killed in the attack.
It remained unclear if the US had killed Godane for days after the strike. Initially the US government, Somali government officials and al Shabaab were cagey about his apparent demise.
The day after the attack, al Shabaab spokesman Abu Mohammed confirmed Godane, right, was in the convoy when the attack hit. And a US official told Reuters: “We don’t know that he’s dead. But he was the target.”
Godane’s death was eventually confirmed on September 5. He was the specific target, according to a Pentagon spokesman though the attack reportedly killed a group of senior al Shabaab figures.
Godane, 37, trained as an accountant and worked for an airline before turning to violence, according to the Telegraph. He took control of al Shabaab the group in 2008 when his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro was killed in a cruise missile strike. He sidelined or killed more moderate rivals in his rise to the top of al Shabaab. The US government has put a $7m reward for information on his whereabouts.
Al Shabaab named a successor two days after the US government confirmed Godane was dead. Ahmed Umar was elected unanimously, according to a video message sent to al Jazeera. The Somali government subsequently put a $3m reward out for Umar.
While Godane’s fate was unclear for almost a week after the strike, the Pentagon was uncharacteristically transparent about the attack, with spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby making several statements about the attack, and answering questions from the press on the matter.
Kirby said of the strike: “The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death… Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss” to al-Shabab… The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations.”
Somali National Security Ministry spokesman Mohamed Yusuf told journalists: “His death is great news for the Somali people, because he was responsible for the killing of thousands of innocent people in his so-called holy war.”
Godane was in overall command of the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, in 2013. The president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta thanked the US for killing Godane: “We owe the United States and its soldiers our heartfelt thanks for bringing an end to Godane’s career of death and destruction and finally allowing us to begin our healing process.”
A possible, and surprising, element of this strike emerged on September 12 2014. A French publication Le Point reported France’s intelligence service the DGSE gave the US the precise whereabouts of Godane, under direct orders from President Francois Hollande.
The article explains that Prais had been hunting Godane to exact revenge for the kidnapping of two DGSE officers on July 14 2009, and the death of one of them and two commandos sent to rescue him on January 12 2013. President Hollande had ordered his intelligence services to do everything they could to find and kill Godane.
The last time there was official confirmation of a US operation in Somalia was on October 4 2013 (SOM017). US special forces launched a night raid on a house, also in Barawe, in a bid to capture a senior Shabaab figure. The operation ultimately failed after a protracted firefight.
Type of action: US drone strike
Location: Barawe, Lower Shabeelle
References: Washington Post, Voice of America, CBS, Associated Press, BBC, AFP/Twitter, AFP, Bloomberg, Rewards for Justice, Daily Telegraph, CNN, NBC News, Somali government/Twitter, Associated Press, Associated Press, Reuters, US DoD, Australian Associated Press, Le Point (Fr), Horseed Media, Voice of America
Dataset: 2014 started with the longest pause in drone strikes of the 10-year campaign.
A full dataset and methodology showing what the drones attacked in Pakistan.
Read the secret report showing the government’s assessment of over 300 strikes.