Al Qaeda leader Saleh target of US airstrike in southern Somalia
Yesterday's airstrike against an al Qaeda safe house targeted Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a senior operative for al Qaeda's network in eastern Africa. Nabhan was "found, targeted, and killed" along with an unspecified number of al Qaeda operatives in the town of Dhobley along the southern border with Kenya, The Washington Times reported.
The US military has not confirmed Saleh's death. The US military will need to secure the attack site to obtain DNA and other forensic evidence to confirm the identity of those killed in the attack.
Dhobley was reported as having fallen to Hassan al Turki a senior leader in the Islamic Courts and its predecessor al Itihaad al Islamiyah. Turki is running a military and terrorist training camp in Dhobley. There is no word if Turki was among those killed or if he was meeting with Nabhan during the strike.
"Al Qaeda has used this region to spill over into other parts of eastern Africa," a US counterterrorism official told The Washington Times. "Somalia at a minimum is a place of refuge but for some of al Qaeda it is a place to plot and plan future attacks."
Al Qaeda and the Islamic Courts operated at least 17 terror camps throughout Somalia prior to the downfall of the Islamic Courts in December 2006. The terror groups are attempting to re-establish their networks, as the Somali government is unable to assert its control throughout the country.
Nabhan is wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with the 2002 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya against a hotel and an airliner. Nabhan targeted a hotel frequented by Israelis and an Israeli-chartered airplane in a near-simultaneous attack. Suicide bombers rammed a truck into the lobby of hotel visited by Israelis. Thirteen were killed and 80 wounded in the attack. At the same time as the hotel attack, al Qaeda launched two Strela surface-to-air missiles at an Arkia Airlines jet. The missiles missed their targets.
Nabhan is also wanted for involvement in the 1998 suicide attacks against US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The attack in Nairobi, Kenya resulted in 212 killed and more than 4,000 wounded. The attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania resulted 11 killed and 85 wounded. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda's operations chief in East Africa, and Abu Taha al Sudani, the leader of al Qaeda's network in East Africa were also behind the attacks.
See The Rise & Fall of Somalia's Islamic Courts: An Online History for additional information on Somalia.