Moroccan jihadist Abu Ibrahim. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
A Moroccan jihadist was among several Shabaab fighters, including other foreigners, who were killed in an airstrike in southern Somalia today.
In a web posting today, a jihadist forum member who also serves as an operative in Somalia said that Abu Ibrahim, who was also known as Hassan al Toor and Abu Qatada, was killed in an airstrike south of Mogadishu. The jihadist announced Abu Ibrahim’s death in a statement that was released on the al Qaeda-linked Shumukh al-Islam forum and translated by the SITE Intelligence group.
While the jihadist forum member did not give an exact date for Abu Ibrahim’s death, his statement indicates that Abu Ibrahim was killed in an airstrike that took place in the K60 area of the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia (K60 is an area 60 kilometers south of Mogadishu near the coastal city of Merca).
“The knowledge [sic] knight dismounted his horse as a result of an airstrike in area of 60 in Lower Shabelle province..,” the statement said.
Reports from Somalia said that several aircraft, thought to be helicopters, struck two vehicles traveling at night in the K60 area, killing four to six Shabaab operatives, including “foreigners.” Mareeg Online claimed that a Kenyan known as Sheik Abukar Hajji Ahmed was among several Kenyans killed in the attack. The Internet jihadist said that Abu Ibrahim was killed along with two others, who were known as Abu Ahad al Muhajir and Abu Bakr a Ansari al Muhajir. The two men were likely foreigners, as Muhajir means “immigrant.”
The jihadist also stated that Abu Ibrahim was killed after his “dream” of Shabaab merging with al Qaeda was realized.
“The Sheikh was keen to have al Qaeda take the helm of jihad in this land… The Sheikh departed after some of his dream came true, and there are still some things to be done
by those after him…,” the Internet jihadist stated.
Shabaab officially merged with al Qaeda on Feb. 9 [see LWJ report, Shabaab formally joins al Qaeda]. Today’s airstrike in K60 is the first reported in that area since the merger.
The jihadist claimed to personally know Abu Ibrahim, presumably from the jihadist web forums, and said that he had, along with al Qaeda leader Bilal al Berjawi, encouraged and helped Abu Ibrahim enter Somalia. The jihadist said he first met Abu Ibrahim in the Somali city of Baidoa. The city was controlled by Shabaab for the past three years before the terror group abandoned it just this week to advancing Somali and Ethiopian forces.
Abu Ibrahim attempted to join al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi prior to his death in June 2006. The jihadist claimed Abu Ibrahim “arrived in Turkey and then returned,” but did not give the reasons for why he could not enter Iraq.
Likely a US airstrike
The BBC said that the Kenyan military, which has conducted airstrikes several hundreds of miles south in the Kismayo region, denied hitting targets in the K60 area today. The strike was likely carried out by the US, as the Kenyan Air Force would be hard-pressed to hit moving vehicles in an airstrike in an area more than 500 miles north of its borders. The Kenyan military also would not be likely to have the intelligence capabilities to identify the targets and execute the strike.
US military and Intelligence officials who were contacted by The Long War Journal would neither confirm nor deny that the US carried out today’s airstrike in Somalia. If helicopters were used in today’s strike, the mission was likely executed by the Joint Special Operations Command, which also used helicopter gunships to kill top al Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in a similar raid along the coast south of Mogadishu in September 2009.
The US has been actively hunting al Qaeda and Shabaab operatives operating in southern Somalia. Last month, the US killed Bilal al Berjawi, a British citizen who served as a senior al Qaeda and Shabaab leader, in a Predator airstrike near Mogadishu.
The US military’s Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA are known to operate the armed Predators and Reapers from bases in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, Arba Minch in Ethiopia, the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean, and a base in an unnamed country on the Arabian Peninsula. The bases are to be used to attack al Qaeda affiliates Shabaab, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.a
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.