TerrorismU.S. drone strike kills top al-Shabaab bomb maker

Published 4 November 2013

The U.S. military has confirmed the killing of Ibrahim Ali Abdi, also known as Anta Anta, the explosives specialist who headed al-Shabaab’s bomb-making efforts with an expertise in suicide missions, road-side explosives, car bombs, and other homemade bombs. The administration had been reluctant to follow in Somalia the punishing drone campaign it has been conducting in Pakistan and Yemen for fears that such a campaign might transform al Shabaab from a regional organization focused on repelling foreign troops – from Kenya, Ethiopia, and the African Union — from Somalia into a group which adopted al Qaeda’s agenda to strike the West at every turn. The killing of Anta, and the failed raid three weeks ago to kill another Shabaab leader, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, are indications that the administration has decided to escalate the fight against the Somali group.

The U.S. military has confirmed the killing of Ibrahim Ali Abdi, also known as Anta Anta, the explosives specialist who headed al-Shabaab’s bomb-making efforts with an expertise in suicide missions, road-side explosives, car bombs, and other homemade bombs. The drone strike that killed him was carried out on Monday, 28 October 2013, three weeks after a Navy SEAL raid in another part of Somalia failed to capture Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, known as Ikrima, a senior al-Shabaab leader considered the lead planner of a plot to attack Kenya’s parliament building and the UN office in Nairobi in 2011 and 2012.

Witnesses at the scene told Al Jazeera that the drone strike hit a car carrying senior members of al-Shabaab, killing at least two people, including Abdi. “It was after afternoon prayers between 1:30 p.m. and 2 p.m. when I heard a loud bang. Just one big bang,” a witness from Jilib told the network. “I came to the scene shortly after. I saw two dead bodies. Then al-Shabaab fighters came to scene and took the bodies from the Suzuki vehicle. It was a drone strike.”

The New York Times notes that the strike is evidence of the Obama administration’s escalation in the fight against al-Shabaab in the aftermath of the 21 September 2013 attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya which killed at least sixty-seven people. The administration has been conducting a punishing drone campaign against al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan, and against followers of Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen, but the administration has been reluctant to use similar measures in Somalia. The Times notes that this reluctance partly the result of questions about whether the Shabaab, which has not tried to carry out an attack on American soil, could legally be made target of operations by the military or the CIA.

Another question about the group concerned its goals. Some regional experts contended that U.S. strikes might incite Shabaab operatives, transforming the group from a regional organization focused on repelling foreign troops – from Kenya, Ethiopia, and the African Union — from Somalia into a group which adopted al Qaeda’s agenda to strike the West at every turn.

An anonymous pentagon official told the Times that the mission, conducted by the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) identified Abdi as “someone we’ve been tracking for a long time.”

Abdikarin Hussein Guled, Somalia’s interior minister,told the Telegraph that Somali intelligence services had been tracking Abdi for some time before the U.S. drone strike. “The operation in which this man has been killed was very important for the government,” Guled said. “This man had a major role in the death of many innocent civilians and his death will help in bringing back peace.”

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