Al Qaeda leader Saleh target of US airstrike in southern Somalia

Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. Click to view.

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.

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



  • Neo says:

    Wow! They’re getting good at this. Perhaps even more significantly, this tells me the enemy is ratting each other out. This looks like a serious problem for Al Qaeda.
    No wonder they’re blowing up cell phone towers all over the place.

  • Ammo Guy says:

    I’m so tired of this safe haven crap and I’m so glad to see someone doing something about it, whether it be the Israelis in Gaza, the Colombians in Ecuador, or us everywhere else. Every terrorist should feel like there’s a bulls-eye on his back and wonder who’s ratting him out…and what’s circling above his head…the Reaper and Predator await. Good shooting guys and God bless you.

  • Nabhan target of Somalia strike

    Such is the nature of this truly global war on terrorism.

  • RtWngTexan says:

    Good to see the gloves really coming off. Missile strikes and targeted killings are the way to hit these guys…no need for a full blown invasion every time. Make it painful to be a terrorist and eventually people might decide it’s not such fun or worth it.

  • irish guard says:

    It is interesting to note that U.S. soldier deaths in Iraq are way down in the last few weeks, Petraeus toured central Baghdad without body armor and we are able to attack locations in countries such as Somalia and Pakistan with deadly results.
    Obviously, we have discovered new intel. There was a period a few weeks ago (three perhaps) where internet cables in the middle east under the ocean were systematically cut. Not sure if there was or is meaning to that, but I can only guess there was.

  • KnightHawk says:

    I too suspected there was an intel move behind those cable cuts be it the US or someone else, 3 major cables cuts in the course of 48 hours just doesn’t really happen by chance though of course it’s possible. There were actually 5 that week two of which have signs of being legit. Sounded to me like someone was trying to either funnel communications through a certain choke point route – one that was able to be monitored, or provide some cover while these were ‘repaired /w taps attached’. We’ve done it before, hell we’ve even built the USS Carter with this specific capability in mind. Who ever you are you don’t ‘cut’ three or maybe even five major communication cables on a whim and while I’m not that prone to grand secret conspiracies our president just weeks prior put out an executive order expanding NSA cyber-security role. Massive cowinkydink or something I’ll read the details of 25 years from now? Who knows and I’m way off topic.
    The important news is a few more terrorists are not walking around today. Jolly good show! -2cents


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