Wednesday, September 03, 2014

U.S. Drone Strike In Somalia Targets Al - Shabab Leader

Al - ShaMob blood gets uppity in the hood - Obama snuffs CIA mutineer    

By Craig Whitlock

The Pentagon said Tuesday that it tried to kill the leader of the militant group al-Shabab in an air attack in Somalia, firing several Hellfire missiles and dropping other munitions on an encampment in the southern part of the country.

Zubeyr battalion commander takes thumb break
It was unclear, however, whether the target of the strikes, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, a jihadist leader widely known as Ahmed Abdi Godane, perished in Monday’s operation. 

“We are still assessing the results,” said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.

Kirby said that U.S. drones and other aircraft destroyed the suspected al-Shabab compound as well as a vehicle that was in the vicinity. 

He bluntly acknowledged that the purpose of the mission was to kill Godane, who as the leader of the movement asserted responsibility for killing dozens of people at an upscale Nairobi mall last year and other attacks in the region.

“The principal target was Mr. Godane,” Kirby said. Godane’s death, he added, would be “a very significant blow to their network, to their organization, and, we believe, to their ability to continue to conduct terrorist attacks.”

Al-Shabab, which means “the Youth” in Arabic, is a jihadist movement that controls large portions of Somalia, a chronically unstable country on the Horn of Africa with a weak central government. The group has lost its previous grip on the capital of Mogadishu and has receded largely into rural areas over the past two years, while at the same time escalating its plots and attacks elsewhere in east Africa.

Although Godane has sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda, U.S. counterterrorism officials have been divided over how much of a direct threat al-Shabab poses to the United States. In remarks to reporters at the Pentagon, Kirby said al-Shabab represented a broad threat beyond Somalia and that it had targeted U.S. personnel in East Africa, as well as United Nations officials.

"I'ze gwine dig fo mah Obama roots, blood!" - Baby ShaMob
“This action was taken because of the history of terrorist attacks and violence that this organization is responsible for and continues to be responsible for,” Kirby said. There were conflicting reports from Somalia on whether Godane survived the attack. 

A spokesman for al-Shabab told the Associated Press that he was present at the site of the strike but declined to say whether he was killed or injured. Pentagon officials said they would be cautious before drawing any definitive conclusions. Several al-Qaeda leaders have been reported killed in drone strikes in the past in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, only to resurface later on, very much alive.

Somali officials said the strike took place near the port city of Barawe, an al-Shabab stronghold. Kirby would not identify what specific types of aircraft took part in the operation, but said no U.S. forces were on the ground.

Nearly one year ago, on Oct. 5, Navy SEALs raided a seaside house in Barawe in an attempt to capture Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, a Kenyan native and senior al-Shabab commander. That raid sparked a gunfight but was unsuccessful; U.S. officials said the SEALs withdrew because the risk of harming bystanders had become too great.

"Whey be 1400 Pennsylcania Ave., mo' fo?"
The State Department has offered a $7 million reward for information leading to Godane’s arrest. 

It has identified Godane as a 37-year-old native of Hargeysa, Somalia who has led al-Shabab since 2007. 

Among other aliases, he goes by the name Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed.

Counterterrorism officials and analysts said that Godane has been a particularly ruthless jihadi leader who has eliminated several rivals within al-Shabab, either by killing them or forcing them to go underground.

Hussein Mahmoud Sheikh-Ali, the senior counterterrorism adviser for Somalia’s federal government, said Godane was especially ambitious and had tried to position himself as a key leader within the broader al-Qaeda movement. At the same time, he said it would be difficult for al-Shabab to replace him because he had consolidated so much power and had killed so many would-be successors.

“The organization is a one-man organization--Godane and nobody else,” Sheikh-Ali said Tuesday during an event at the Atlantic Council, a Washington think tank. Under Godane’s leadership, he added, al-Shabab has “become more efficient and potent in many ways. But on the other hand, they’ve also become more vulnerable.”

Sheikh-Ali said the government of Somalia was likewise still trying to confirm Godane’s fate, but that if he is dead, it would move quickly to reach out to less hard-line al-Shabab figures in an attempt to reconcile with at least some factions of the movement.

"We be kickin' ass and takin' names blood!"
“His killing would be a game-changer,” he said. “They’re going to struggle and there’s going to be huge opportunity for the government to take advantage.” The U.S. military frequently conducts drone surveillance flights over Somalia, but airstrikes and ground raids are relatively uncommon. 

The Pentagon has a large drone base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which borders Somalia on the Horn of Africa. The U.S. military also flies surveillance drones over Somalia from a base in Ethi­o­pia.

The Pentagon quietly deployed a small team of advisers to Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, last October to coordinate operations with African troops fighting to wrest control of the country from al-Shabab.

The deployment marked the first time regular U.S. troops have been stationed in the war-ravaged country since 1993, when two helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans were killed in the “Black Hawk Down” disaster. U.S. commandos have intermittently conducted raids and operations in the country as well, but the military has kept their activities cloaked in secrecy.

An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr as a native of Kenya.

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