The US military launched an airstrike at an al Qaeda safe house in the town of Dobley in southern Somalia, just four miles from the Kenyan border. “We launched a deliberate strike against a suspected bed-down of known terrorists,” a senior US military official told Reuters.
The target of the strike has not been identified at this time, but the US military believes the strike was successful. At least eight were reported killed and six more are reported to be trapped inside the rubble of the safe house.
This is the fourth known US-led airstrike against al Qaeda operatives in Somalia since the Ethiopian operation to drive the Islamic Courts from power was launched in late December 2006. The Ethiopians also launched airstrikes against Islamic Courts fighters who were into Kenya in early January 2007.
The US targeted Fazul Abdullah Mohammad, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, and Abu Tala al Sudani during the early 2007 strikes. Fazul was again targeted in June 2007. They are believed to be sheltering in Somalia, and one or more of them may have been the target of today’s strike.
Fazul is al Qaeda’s operations chief responsible for planning the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the 2002 car bombing attack in Kenya and missile attack on an Israeli airliner. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan is also wanted for questioning in connection with the 2002 attacks Kenya. Abu Taha al Sudani (or Tariq Abdullah) is al Qaeda’s leader in East Africa.
A look at some of the leaders of the Islamic Courts, Shabaab, and al Qaeda in East Africa. Click to view.
The US also targeted Hassan Dahir Aweys and Aden Hashi Ayro during 2007. Aweys was the leader and operational commander of the Islamic Courts prior to its dissolution in early 2007. Aweys has close links to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. He is currently operating from Asmara, Eritrea. Aden Hashi Ayro was an operational commander in the Islamic Courts. He trained under Aweys and was sent to train in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan prior to 2001.
Another potential target is Hassan Turki. He was reported to have taken control of the Dobley region earlier this week. Turki, who was a senior leader in the Islamic Courts and its predecessor, al Itihaad al Islamiyah, is believed to be running a military training camp on the Kenyan-Somali border.
The Islamic Courts reorganized from a governing body into a terrorist insurgency during the winter of 2008. Shabaab, the radical Islamist youth movement of the Islamic Courts, began attacks on the Transitional Federal Government and the Ethiopian Army. The Ethiopian and Somali government forces have since battled a violent insurgency. The Somalia government is said to control only 10 percent of the country, as Shabaab has begun to openly retake territory, including the Dinsor district in the southwestern province of Bay.