U.S. Targets Shabab Unit in Somalia

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WASHINGTON — The United States has carried out airstrikes against a senior member of the Shabab extremist group who is believed to have helped plan the 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Kenya, American officials said Friday.

Pentagon officials said they were still assessing the results of a drone strike, carried out Thursday against the senior member, Adan Garar, and two other militants near a Somali town west of Mogadishu, not far from the border with Kenya. It was unclear whether Mr. Garar and his associates had been killed, they said.

“U.S. military forces conducted a counterterrorism operation in Somalia yesterday, March 12, against the Al Shabab network,” said Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman. “We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.”

At the time, President Obama drew a direct link between the killing of Mr. Godane, who turned an obscure Somali militant group into one of the most fearsome franchises of Al Qaeda in the world, and American plans for the leaders of the Islamic State in Iraq. The Pentagon press secretary at the time, Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, called the death of Mr. Godane “a major symbolic and operational loss” to the Shabab.

But if the Shabab suffered a major setback with the killing of Mr. Godane, the group’s remaining leaders have vowed to attack in Kenya, Uganda and Somalia.

The siege on the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi, where dozens were killed, heightened American concerns that the Shabab’s desire to inflict casualties extended beyond Somalia.

Defense officials cautioned that they did not know yet if the drone strikes were successful in killing Mr. Garar or any other Shabab leaders. In the Godane case last year, it took several days of monitoring cell phone traffic, questioning Somali officials on the ground and poring over reports from both American and British intelligence agencies before the death was confirmed.

But Ben Mulwa, 34, who was wounded in the attack on the Westgate mall, said he hoped the claims were true.

“We’ve been looking to see that justice be done,” he said.

Mr. Mulwa, who is now a coordinator for the Terror Victims Support Initiative, a grassroots group that lobbies for support and compensation for victims of terrorism in Kenya, said the Shabab were continuing to make threats. “This assures us that something is being done,” he said.

Mwenda Mbijiwe, a counterterrorism analyst in Kenya, said he believed that the small and tight-knit nature of the Shabab’s top leadership meant that the group would “be affected in a big way” with the loss of Mr. Garar even if it continued to carry out attacks.

On Friday, the Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on a governor’s convoy in northern Kenya near the border with Somalia that claimed the lives of three people.

“Those who take over may take a more extreme approach, to say, ‘We are still here’,” Mr. Mbijiwe said.

(Source: NY Times)

Related Story:

U.S. Drone Strike in Somalia Said to Kill Organizer of Kenyan Mall Attack

One U.S. official says it is 90% certain Adan Garar was killed by missile strike

The U.S. conducted a drone strike targeting a key planner of the 2013 attack on a Kenyan shopping mall attack, U.S. officials said Friday, and Somali officials said the militant organizer was killed.

Col. Steve Warren, the chief Pentagon spokesman, confirmed the U.S. conducted a counterterrorism operation against a so-called high value target on Thursday, but declined to provide details.

“This operation was conducted against the al-Shabaab network,” Col. Warren said, referring to Somali militant group with ties to the al Qaeda movement. “We are currently assessing the results of the operation.”

U.S. officials said privately that the target of the drone strike wasAdan Garar, a planner of the 2013 attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi. One official said the U.S. is 90% certain that Mr. Garar was killed in the attack but said the information hasn’t yet been confirmed.

A spokesman for Somalia’s national security and intelligence ministry, Mohamed Yusuf, said Mr. Garaar was killed when the drone strike hit his vehicle near a village called Aqab-buul.

”He was killed together with his driver in the remote area of southern Somalia,” Mr. Yusuf said. He said there were no civilian deaths.

Mr. Yusuf said Mr. Garaar had just taken over intelligence oversight for al-Shabaab from Abdishakur Tahlil, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in December.

More than 60 people were killed in the Westgate terror attack. The U.S. has targeted several al-Shabaab leaders who were suspected to be involved in the attack, including a September 2014 drone strike that killed the al-Shabaab commander known as Ahmed Abdi Godane.

Col. Warren said the latest strike occurred on a road west of Dinsoor and south of Mogadishu. Kenyan officials have said the strike occurred near the town of Bardhere, according to press reports. Bardhere is east of Dinsoor.

Col. Warren said no American troops were on the ground in Somaliaas part of the operation. U.S. officials said the operation was carried out by a drone armed with Hellfire missiles.

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

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