At least five and as many as 30 civilians, including children and one woman, were reportedly killed as US-launched missiles targeted and killed several top al Shabab commanders in Dusa Marreb, a Somali village near the Ethiopian border, local and international sources reported.
Around 3am local time on May 1st, 2008, US naval-launched cruise missiles struck the vicinity of a compound in Dusa Marreb, killing, among other militants, the head of the Somali Islamist movement al Shabaab, Aden Hashi Ayro (see also SOM001), which had growing ties with Al Qaeda. Some reports claimed an AC-130 gunship was also involved in the attack.
An American military official in Washington told the New York Times: “[A]t least four Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a Navy ship or submarine off the Somali coast had slammed into a small compound of single-story buildings in Dusa Marreb, a well-known hide-out for Mr. Ayro and his associates. The military official and two American intelligence officials said all indications were that Mr. Ayro was killed, along with several top lieutenants, but the attack was still being assessed.”
Insurgent leaders had been meeting in Dusa Marreb, al Shabaab-controlled broadcaster Shabelle reported, putting the death toll at 15. A Shabaab spokesperson, Mukhtar Ali Robow, told Reuters: ‘Infidel planes bombed Dusa Marreb… Two of our important people, including Ayro, were killed.’ Sheikh Muhyadin Omar was among the dead, according to the Long War Journal and Africa Confidential. Residents said ‘several other Shabaab fighters and civilians were killed, Reuters reported. Half a dozen senior Al Shabaab commanders and Ayro’s brother were killed in the strike, according to Africa Confidential.
The civilian toll spanned from “several” to as many as 30 across the sources. Some reports put the toll at “at least ten”, while Africa Confidential reported that Ayro’s wife and children, and people from nearby houses, were also reported dead. Another local resident, Jamal Mohamoud, told AFP that he had seen eight bodies in the destroyed house.
Finally, The New York Times, citing local witnesses, reported that “as many as 30 people were dead and that residents were counting skulls to determine the number.”
After Ayro’s death, al Shabaab reportedly suspected the US had tracked him through his iPhone and had banned the use of similar devices.
The incident occured between 2:00 am and 3:00 am local time.