Senior al Qaeda leader killed in Somalia

Shabaab spokesman Mukhtar Robow (left) and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan (face covered) from Shabaab’s latest videotape. Image by Nick Grace.

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.

Nabhan fires a rifle. Image by Nick Grace. Click to view.

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.

Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. Click to view.

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:

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

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  • Tyler says:

    heh. That answers my last question.
    That close to the coast and that far from Djibouti you have to figure the attack was staged from ships assigned to TF 151. I know there was that recent story about a cancelled raid by German GSG-9 commandos against a hijacked ship that was to have been staged from a US warship, the USS Boxer.

  • Tyler says:

    ABCnews now saying it was a US raid. Spec Ops backed by (presumably) Marine Supercobras. And that Nabhan is dead, his body in our custody.

  • Bohemond says:

    Not necessarily USMC AH-!s. They could have been AFSOF MH-60L’s, or 160th SOAR(A) MH/AH-6’s, which carry a lot of punch and which can and do operate from shipboard.

  • Mr T says:

    Ouch, thats gotta hurt. Murderer controlled territory and the US sent in some guys to take them out. I guess they don’t have as much control as they thought. Somali Pirates, take note.

  • Tyler says:

    Fox saying it was the SEALs in AH-6 Little Birds that blasted him. ‘Operation Celestial Balance’, and that the Prez gave the go-order for the operation a little over a week ago.

  • Rosario says:

    According to AJ
    Six helo’s in formation, two helo’s attacked vehicle, two wounded pulled from vehicle by white foreign soldiers. Is there an LHP on station in the horn of africa? Sounds like US intelligence is getting very very good there. Dirty wizards beware, maybe these bad guys aren’t dead but singing loudly in custody!

  • Marlin says:

    More information from the MSM.

    Airborne U.S. Special Operations forces attacked a car in southern Somalia on Monday and killed one of east Africa’s most wanted al Qaeda militants, a U.S. official said.
    The commandos, among the most elite and secretive of all U.S. military forces, had spent days tracking Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who is suspected of building the truck bomb that killed 15 people at a Kenyan hotel in 2002, as well as involvement in a simultaneous, botched missile launch at an Israeli airliner, the official said.
    The strike represented an unusually high-profile assault by the covert American forces, whose activities are highly classified and whose operations — whether successes or failures — rarely take place in public view.
    “It was a careful, methodical operation,” the official said.

    Wall Street Journal: Elite U.S. Forces Kill Top Al Qaeda Fighter

  • Rhyno327 says:

    The US has assets in Dijbouti, and offshore. Men hanging from choppers firing? Sounds like “Little Birds” with Delta/SEAL operators. See wat you can do if you REALLY want s/one? Now, those pirates should pay careful attention to this. BZ SOCOM!!

  • David M says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 09/15/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Tyler says:

    Killing the three pirates who kidnapped Captain Phillips, capturing the pirate crew that attacked the Liberty Sun and buzzing the pirate base in Haradere with choppers have all contributed to a pretty strong retaliation and warning against further piracy against US-flagged vessels. The pirates know we can and will hurt their bottom line in a big way should they try anything more.
    Its almost refreshing to have an enemy that can take the hint with minimal expenditure of lives on all sides. Good lord I hate jihadists. Have fun with your new friends Nabhan.


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