7 foreign Shabaab fighters killed in explosion in Mogadishu

shabaab_080908.jpg

Image of a Shabaab fighter from the terror group’s website.

Seven foreign fighters were among 10 Shabaab operatives killed in a blast yesterday at a safe house in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

The explosion took place on Aug. 21 at a compound owned by Sheikh Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansour, one of Shabaab’s top leaders, a member of the al Qaeda-linked terror group told Garowe.

“Several top fighters, both foreigners and Somalis died after two explosive-laden vehicles exploded in the middle of the house,” the Shabaab fighter said.

The Somali government claimed that seven foreign fighters, a Shabaab commander, and two local fighters were killed. It is unclear if Robow was among those killed.

“They are three Pakistanis, two Indians, one Afghani, one Algerian, and two Somalis, (and) a leader who was in charge of praying for suicide bombers before they were dispatched,” Somalia’s Information Ministry said in a statement, according to Reuters.

The Aug. 21 blast in Mogadishu mimics another unexplained explosion that took place in May 2009 that nearly killed Shabaab’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Muktar Abdelrahman Abu Zubeyr. In that incident, 11 Shabaab fighters and three or four “foreign fighters” were killed. It was reportedly caused by the detonation of a car bomb in the compound, but observers claimed that “missiles” struck the compound. The explosion was never linked to US special operations forces, which have conducted at least six strikes inside Somalia against top Shabaab and al Qaeda leaders.

US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the Aug. 21 explosion in Mogadishu.

Over the past several years, Al Qaeda commanders have taken over some of the top leadership positions in Shabaab. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who was indicted for his involvement in the 1998 attacks in Kenya and Tanzania along with Osama bin Laden, served as Shabaab’s top intelligence official before replacing Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan as Shabaab’s top military leader. Al Qaeda also appointed Fazul as its operations chief for East Africa. Nabhan, who was also indicted with bin Laden and Fazul, served as Shabaab’s military commander before US special operations forces killed him in September 2009.

Other foreign al Qaeda operatives hold top leadership positions in Shabaab. Shaykh Muhammad Abu Fa’id, a Saudi citizen, serves as a top financier and a “manager” for Shabaab. Abu Musa Mombasa, a Pakistani citizen, serves as Shabaab’s chief of security and training. Mahmud Mujajir, a Sudanese citizen, is Shabaab’s chief of recruitment for suicide bombers. Abu Mansour al Amriki, a US citizen, serves as a military commander, recruiter, financier, and propagandist.

Al Qaeda’s central leadership, which is based in Pakistan, recently instructed Shabaab to downplay its links to the terror group but to continue to target US interests in the region, a senior US intelligence official who closely follows al Qaeda and Shabaab in East Africa told The Long War Journal.

Shabaab is considered by some US military and intelligence officials to be one of al Qaeda’s most successful affiliates. Shabaab, along with its sometime ally, sometime rival Hizbul Islam, has taken control of much of southern and central Somalia after waging a terror insurgency against Ethiopian forces and the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government.

Last spring, Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia under fire and were replaced by some 6,000 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi. The fractured and weak central government and African Union forces currently control pockets within Mogadishu and little else.

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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4 Comments

  • kp says:

    When I first read this report (in the Pak Times //www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2010\08\22\story_22-8-2010_pg7_23) I thought: “Wow, that’s terrible idea keeping multiple valuable foreign fighters at safe house that’s a VBIED factory. Just think of what could go wrong”.

    Then I though *two* separate explosions separated by minutes sounds more like a missile attack than a car bomb with secondary explosions. Then the cordon around the area (would you cordon an VBIED factory?) and the precise count (and makeup) of the dead at night (from “security sources”) makes me think the info came from elsewhere. Plus the house was owned by the deputy leader of the Shabaab.

    Given the target mix (foreign fighters) there is a good chance this will turn out to be a US attack. Perhaps against their external operations unit? Or perhaps to preempt an imminent UNISOM attack.

  • Max says:

    My thoughts too, kp. At least we can hope it was from a couple of hellfire missiles. If we aren’t doing that, IMO we should be; in force, and not just a few here and there.

  • T Ruth says:

    3 Pakis, 2 Indians, 1 Afghan, I Algerian, 3 Somalis and a funeral. I love that!
    Or were they vaporized so no funeral reqd. I like that even better!!

  • TMP says:

    +1 KP – Almost certain it was a US Strike –

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