US airstrike targets senior leader of Shabaab’s security and intelligence service

The US military targeted a senior al Qaeda leader who also serves in the Amniyat, a key security and intelligence organization within Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia, in an airstrike last week. The US military has not confirmed the death of Hassan Ali Dhoore, the dual hatted al Qaeda and Shabaab leader, who was the focus of the airstrike.

The Pentagon announced that it targeted Dhoore “in cooperation with the Federal Government of Somalia, on Thursday, March 31.” Dhoore was described as “a senior leader of Shabaab, who is part of al Qaeda” and “a member of Shabaab’s Amniyat (security and intelligence) wing and was heavily involved in high profile attack planning in Mogadishu.”

Dhoore “had planned and overseen attacks resulting in the death of at least three US citizens,” the statement continued. He was directly linked to two assaults, one in December 2014 at Mogadishu’s airport, and another at a hotel in the Somali capital. Two Americans were killed in the ambushes.

Leaders and members of the Amniyat have been the focus of multiple US airstrikes. Over the past two years, the US killed the previous two leaders of the Amniyat.  The Amniyat is instrumental in executing suicide attacks inside Somalia as well as in Kenya and other African nations, conducting assassinations, providing logistics and support for operations, and integrating the group’s local and regional commands. Additionally, the Amniyat has ben instrumental in suppressing internal dissent within Shabaab as well as challenges to its primacy in Somalia from the Islamic State.

The US killed the last leader of the Amniyat, Yusuf Dheeq, on Feb. 3, 2015, and also killed his predecessor, Tahlil Abdishakur, on Dec. 29, 2014. Additionally, the US killed Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of Shabaab and its former emir, in an airstrike on Sept. 1, 2014.

Like when reporting the deaths of previous Shabaab leaders, the US military said that Dhoore’s death would be a “significant blow” to the jihadist group.

“While we are still assessing the results of this operation, removing Dhoore from the battlefield,” a euphemism for killing him, “would be a significant blow to Shabaab’s operational planning and ability to conduct attacks against the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia, its citizens, US partners in the region, and against Americans abroad,” the Pentagon stated.

Unfortunately the deaths of Godane, Dheeq, Abdishakur, and a number of senior al Qaeda and Shabaab leaders at the hands of the US has done little to disrupt Shabaab’s command or control. The jihadist group has been waging an effective insurgency and still controls territory in Somalia despite the fact that the US began targeting Shabaab’s leadership beginning in late 2006. In addition, Shabaab recently has gone on the offensive and regained control of several towns and villages in southern Somalia that have been lost over the past several years.

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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