Aden Hashi Ayro, the deceased leader of al Qaeda-linked Shabaab, the terrorist youth movement of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union. Photo from IntelCenter
US Special Forces have struck yet again inside Somalia. The latest airstrike in central Somalia killed senior Shabaab and al Qaeda leader Aden Hashi Ayro and seven others. The attack comes as the Islamic Courts steps up its attacks on Somali and Ethiopian forces and has overrun villages and districts in central and western Somalia.
The airstrike has been confirmed by Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, the spokesman for Shabaab, the youth wing of the radical Islamic Courts Union. “A US warplane bombed us in Dhusamareb district and there were casualties,” Robow said in a statement. “This was an unprovoked attack.” Press reports indicate at least eight people were killed in the strike.
Robow confirmed that Aden Hashi Ayro and Sheikh Muhyadin Omar, two senior leaders in the Islamic Courts, were among those killed. Ayro was the leader of Shabaab and served as an operational commander during the rule of the Islamic Courts. He trained under Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the Islamic Courts who is also a senior al Qaeda leader. Ayro was sent to train in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan prior to 2001.
Ayro is believed to be behind the deadly string of roadside bombings and suicide attacks against government and Ethiopian forces. In a propaganda audiotape released by Shabaab in November 2007, Ayro called for “attacks on African Union troops and expressed his wishes of someday beheading women and children in Addis Ababa.”
The Islamic Courts and its affiliate Shabaab have stepped up its attacks in Somalia the past several months. Islamic Courts and Shabaab fighters attack Somali and Ethiopian forces on a daily basis. The Islamic Courts and Shabaab are reported to have taken over districts in the Middle Shabelle, Bay, and Middle Juba regions. More than 100 Somalis are reported as killed during heavy fighting in Mogadishu from April 19-22. The Somali government accused Shabaab of executing 20 worshippers in a mosque to trigger the fighting, while Shabaab has blamed the Ethiopian military.
A look at some of the leaders of the Islamic Courts, Shabaab, and al Qaeda in East Africa. Click to view.
Recent strikes targeting the Islamic Courts and Shabaab
Today’s successful strike is the fifth 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 fleeing into Kenya in early January 2007. The US targeted Hassan Dahir Aweys and Aden Hashi Ayro during this time period.
The US targeted al Qaeda commanders Fazul Abdullah Mohammad, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, and Abu Tala al Sudani during the early 2007 strikes. Fazul was again targeted in June 2007.
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.
The last airstrike occurred on March 3, 2007, when US struck an al Qaeda safe house in the town of Dobley in southern Somalia, just four miles from the Kenyan border. The US targeted Hassan Turki, who had taken control of the Dobley region in late February. 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. Turki is believed to have survived the attack.