A senior al Qaeda operative behind the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania is believed to have been killed during a raid by covert forces in southern Somalia.
Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and another person are thought to have been killed in the southern town of Barawe during a raid by what was originally reported to be French commandos; the raid is now said to have been carried out by US Special Forces.
Witnesses said foreign troops swept into the town on helicopters, fired missiles from an attack helicopter, killed Nabhan and another terrorist, and captured two others after wounding them, Mareeg reported. Nabhan’s body was recovered, ABC News later reported.
Another report indicated that four Shabaab and al Qaeda fighters were killed during the raid. Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow, a senior Shabaab leader, is said to have been one of those killed along with Nabhan.
In the past, the US has launched several air and naval strikes against al Qaeda and Shabaab leaders in Somalia, including a March 4, 2008 strike that targeted Nabhan in Dhobley. Sheikh Aden Hashi Ayro, the military commander of Shabaab, was killed during a US strike in May 2008.
Nabhan is a senior leader in Al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia that controls vast swaths of territory in the South and in the capital of Mogadishu. He has been instrumental in brokering Shabaab’s merger with al Qaeda.
Nabhan has been one of the most sought out al Qaeda operatives in Africa. He is 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 in 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. Sudani was killed during the fighting to oust the Islamic Courts in early 2007.
Nabhan is also wanted by the FBI for questioning in connection with the 2002 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya against a hotel and an airliner. In near-simultaneous attacks, Nabhan targeted a hotel frequented by Israelis and an Israeli-chartered airplane. Suicide bombers rammed a truck into the lobby of hotel visited by Israelis; 13 were killed and 80 wounded. 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.
Map of southern Somalia:
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.