U.S. Naval Task Force strikes at 1998 al Qaeda Embassy bomber

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the intelligence chief for the Islamic Courts and other unnamed high value targets attacked in Puntland, Somalia

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Click to view.

Six months after Ethiopia’s invasion of southern Somalia to oust the al Qaeda backed Islamic Courts, the Transitional Federal Government, backed by Ethiopian armed forces and a small contingent of African Union troops have fought a vicious low level insurgency against the remnants of the Islamic Courts. Al Qaeda has poured money and resources into Somalia, and has issued propaganda tapes calling for jihadists to fight the “crusaders” in the country. During the Ethiopian invasion, the U.S. Navy and Special Forces intervened, and struck at senior Islamic Courts and al Qaeda leaders fleeing the battlefield. Over the past 24 hours, U.S. forces have struck again, and targeted at least one of the principle actors in the 1998 suicide attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Last evening, Somalinet reported security forces in Puntland, the semi autonomous state in the central region of Somalia, reinforced local tribal fighters along the Bargale coast in an attack against “‘Islamist remnants’ including foreign al Qaeda linked operatives who reached there with boats.”

“We have been tipped that there were 35 heavily armed men and were aboard two high-speed boats, so our forces were deployed in the area to confront the Islamists,” Muse Gele Farole , the governor of the Bari region said. “Mr. Gedi told the local media this morning that when the Islamic insurgents with two boats came off shore a day before, they had suddenly clashed with the local militia supported by Puntland.” One of the Islamists’ boats was captured “while the other escaped into the sea.”

MSNBC reported the USS Chafee, an Arleigh Burke class destroyer assigned to Joint Task Force 150, “fired 20 five-inch rounds from her deck guns” after receiving “‘actionable intelligence’ gathered by U.S. Special Operations Forces and local tribal leaders that the suspects were in the area.” The destroyer’s guns were pressed into service as “airstrikes would have come too late.”

Governor Gele stated some of the Islamists, which “include Yemenis, Afghans, Asians and Arabs with Somalis,” fled inland as others escaped on the remaining boat. “The insurgents are now in the mountains of Bargale coast for safe heaven but they are in isolation and will either give in to the forces or be captured in the coming hours,” said Governor Gele. It is unclear of the USS Chafee fired its shells at the fleeing boat or a camp in the mountains of Bargale.

The main target is reported to have been Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of the primary architects of the 1998 suicide attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and 17 year veteran of al Qaeda. The Combating Terrorism Center at the United States Military Academy [or CTC] has written an extensive profile on Fazul. He joined al Qaeda after traveling to Pakistan in 1990. “Within his first year in Pakistan he found himself at the Bayt al-Ansar in Peshawar, [a jihadi guest house] founded by Osama bin Laden and `Abdullah `Azzam. Fazul writes that he saw both of these men lecture at the Bayt al-Ansar during his time there.”

It was not long before he was given his first mission – help train the Somali Islamist militias that were opposing the United Nations intervention there. This was in early spring of 1993, and Fazul was sent with a larger group of operatives that included Ali A. Mohammad [the former major in the Egyptian army who later joined the U.S. Army and attempted to infiltrate the FBI and CIA], Abu Ubayda al-Banshiri, Mohammad Saddiq Odeh, Muhammed Atef, and Saif al-Adel. Ali Mohammad was sent to Nairobi to case targets, and the U.S. Embassy there was identified as a future target at this time. In his 1997 report on the East Africa al-Qa’ida cell, Fazul refers to the fact that this team sent to Somalia in 1993 was directly involved in the so-called Battle of Mogadishu of October ’93, during which two U.S. Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 U.S. soldiers were killed. The Somali group that these al-Qa’ida operatives worked most closely with was al-Ittihad al-Islami, which was partly funded by the al-Haramayn Foundation.27 The leadership of this group went on to lead the Council of Islamic Courts (CIC, a.k.a. Islamic Courts Union) 

The CTC concludes Fazul is the head of intelligence for the Islamic Courts and a leader of al Qaeda’s East Africa network. Fazul is known to have traveled the Somali coastal waterways via boat.

An American military intelligence source stated that since the fall of the Islamic Courts, the Somali Islamists have established new bases throughout the country and are “moving back and forth between them.” The CTC notes that “Task Force 88 are currently on the ground in East Africa searching for Fazul” and other senior al Qaeda and Islamic Courts leaders. Task Force 88 appears to be the new designation of Task Force 145, the special operations hunter killer teams assigned to take out al Qaeda’s senior leadership. The unnamed intelligence official stated the spread of the Islamic Courts bases in Somalia “makes it easier to target [al Qaeda and Islamic Courts leaders] to a certain extent.”

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.



  • RTLM says:

    The five inch gun is the only sea to ground weapon
    I’m aware of on the Aegis boats. I couldn’t imagine a better platform for that area short of a carrier.
    And I think its irresponsible on the part of the unnamed intelligence official to make the statement: “(The) spread of the Islamic Courts bases in Somalia ‘makes it easier to target [al Qaeda and Islamic Courts leaders] to a certain extent’.” If that’s a critical part of our success there it should held closer the vest.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    RTLM, I could have told you that Fazul & company moving around makes it easier to target. And after 6 years of war, AQ knows it too. This idea that simple statements like this (here or elsewhere) is some kind of tightly held national secret is tiring. Its called stating the obvious.

  • RTLM says:

    Beg Pardon,
    Then why is he “unnamed”? We’re getting too many unnamed officials handing real secret info to media who then spill it out eagerly – to my thinking to the detriment of our war effort. Forgive me if it seems I’m splitting hairs.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    This source has asked not to have his name released. Again, what is so secret here? That when clandestine cells or leaders have to move hundreds of miles to maintain command & control, they become exposed? Do you really think al Qaeda doesn’t know that by now? I can rattle off a list of AQ & allied operatives killed in this manner. My advice is to save your fury at the disclosure of secrets for real secrets.

  • T Taylor says:

    “The five inch gun is the only sea to ground weapon I’m aware of on the Aegis boats.”
    First of all, don’t call an AB destroyer a “boat”. It’s not appropriate. It indicates a casual knowledge of naval affairs. Second, you ever hear of Tomahawk? Definately a surface to surface weapon. Third, not well known, but SM2’s can be employed in the surface to surface attack mission.

  • RTLM says:

    T Taylor,
    I served aboard the USS Eisenhower and we commonly called it The Boat. A “Casual” term any experienced Navy man would understand. And as I said in my first post – the five inch gun is the only sea to ground weapon I can name. I guess I should have included the caveat: Within 6 miles. Maybe an expert such as yourself could tell me if a tomahawk could arm itself within that range.
    And an SM2 is 30 years old and not near as precise.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    T Taylor
    You missed one: AEGIS is a weapons system vice a class of vessel. There is technicaly no specific thing as an AEGIS boat, ship or vessel.
    AEGIS equipped vessel types currently include:
    – Ticonderoga class Cruisers (10,000 tons),
    – Arliegh Burke class Destroyers (7,000 tons),
    – Konga class Destroyers (7,000 tons) and
    – F100 class Frigates (3,500 tons).
    (USS Yorktown CG48 – Mar98-Dec01)

  • Colin says:

    Is the Konga-class the refitted Kidd-class destroyers we sold to the Japanese? And if so, isn’t their version of the AEGIS weapons system more like “Aegis-light”? Do they utilize the SPY-1B radar, like the TICONDEROGA-class, or some other kind of phased-array radar? I don’t think we’ve sold the SPY-1D radar to anyone else, but from the number of questions I’ve asked here, it’s obvious that I don’t know all that much.

  • RTLM says:

    Governor Gele stated some of the Islamists, which “include Yemenis, Afghans, Asians and Arabs with Somalis, “The insurgents are now in the mountains of Bargale coast for safe heaven but they are in isolation and will either give in to the forces or be captured in the coming hours,”

    I doubt there will be a capture option. The Islamic mercenaries in this fight are true believers and they’ve been told their families’ future is secure – regardless.
    Its interesting they say “Heaven”. Maybe they meant haven.

  • Ammo Guy says:

    While I love the capabilities (and lethality) of a Tomahawk missile, they are hugely expensive…especially when compared to an artillery shell…plus it sports a 1K or 2K conventional warhead which may have been way too much high explosive for the mission at hand. Your typical naval 5 inch projectile has around 7 or 8 pounds net explosive weight, depending on the DODIC, and believe me, that much HE coming down on your noggin will ruin your day. Sometimes good old fashioned artillery is just the ticket…good shooting lads.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Kidds were sold to Taiwan and never had the AEGIS system.
    The Japanesse built Kongo class are improved Burkes. The Japanese bought the rights and designs and improved the processing software…
    The F-100 Frigates are Spanish built with SPY-1F and are being purchased by several countries.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Ammo Guy
    Yup. That is why they used 5″ and why NSFS is still trained and used. Cheaper, smaller (less collateral damage) and just as accurate as the missiles.
    – Against a shore target, min range is not an issue for Standard since they would be far enough off the coast to have water under the keel (min range ~2NM).
    – Harpoon and Tomahawk are normaly programmed with turn points and could target your own location if you wanted to.
    – All of these weapons systems are equally as accurate dispite their all being over 30 year old designs.
    As to boat verses ship:
    – On the bird-farms calling everything a boat is normal. Airdale dialect.
    – Blackshoe dialect tends to be more formal and boats are defined as smallcraft capable of being carried by ships (e.g. lifeboats; capn’s gig) or submarines.
    8.5 of my 22 years was CVN65, AGF3, AGF11, CV62 and CG48 and worked for bubbleheads at a couple of shore stints. There are five different major dialects of naveese in my experience: Blackshoe, Bubblehead, Snipe, Airdale and Snake-eater. Never spent much time with Seabees so there may be a sixth.
    Then there are the rating sub-dialects…
    IS1 (SW), USN (Ret)
    P.S. For all. Read the comments policy and keep it clean. This is a professional forum, not the deck gang. If I can clean it up, you can.

  • RHYNO says:

    launching a Tomahawk at these targets is like hitting a fly with a hammer. its expensive too. the deck gun is more than capable to take out the targets mentioned. like wat was said by AmmoGuy above, sometimes some good old arty raining ruin WILL ruin ur day. keep up the good work Sailors. hopefully our Spec. Ops. will help finish off these murderers. they are NOT soldiers. they are CRIMINALS. kill them all, take no prisoners.

  • RHYNO says:

    Somalia is just one front on wat now has become an almost worldwide movement by islamo-facsists to create, by force of arms and TERROR, an Islamic Caliphate from Indonesia all the way across southern Asia, across Africa, to Spain. iam not gonna debate wat kind of weapons we did or didn’t use, the important thing is we are there. iam not a Navy guy, but don’t some of those ships have a helipad for a chopper? for use against subs, surface vessels and such? if so, a helo armed to attack ground targets would have been ideal. i must admit iam biased, i will always have a spot in my heart for a helo and its capabilities. in any event, good work Sailors, and a hoah! for the SF on the ground.


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