Up to eight civilians were reportedly killed as the US carried out an airstrike against al Qaeda leaders in Ras Kamboni, Lower Juba, international and local sources reported.
Shortly after Ethiopian forces had invaded Somalia in late December 2006, the US carried out its first known combat operation within Somalia since the September 11 2001 attacks. Specifically, a JSOC AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al Qaeda convoy under cover of darkness, after tracking it with a Predator drone. According to the Washington Post, the strike was launched from a US military base in Djibouti and based on both CIA intelligence and on information provided by Ethiopian and Kenyan forces operating in the border area.
Somali government spokesperson Abdul Rashid Hidig told the New York Times that two civilians were killed, although an Islamist spokesperson said “many” nomadic tribesmen died, including many children. US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Rannenberger denied any civilian casualties in an interview with the BBC. Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman told CBS News the strike was based on intelligence “that led us to believe we had principal al Qaeda leaders in an area where we could identify them and take action against them.” But another US official told the Washington Post: “Frankly, I don’t think we know who we killed.”
Up to a dozen militants were among those reportedly killed. US officials, speaking anonymously, named various al Qaeda members as potential targets including Aden Hashi Eyro or Ayro, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, and Sudanese explosives expert Abu Talha al Sudani (aka Tariq Abdullah). Somali officials instead said that 50 people died in the attacks – “mostly” Al Qaeda fighters.
A team of Ethiopian military personnel with one US Special Forces operative landed at the scene within hours and confirmed eight dead and three injured, “all of whom were described as being armed”, the New York Times reported the following month. Ayro’s bloodied passport was found, leading them to believe he had been wounded or killed, the report added – although Ayro was later targeted in another action (SOM008.) Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was also reportedly the target of SOM002 and SOM005.
A later report in the Daily Mail claimed four British citizens were killed in the attack. Five days after the incident, a number of individuals surrendered to Kenyan authorities, including a number of Swedish citizens; Fazul’s wife Mariam Ali Mohammed; and eight children. They were deported to Mogadishu and then seized by the Ethiopian intelligence service, who transported them to Addis Ababa where they were held for ten weeks. Finally, the Los Angeles Times reported that the raid killed between eight to 10 alleged al Qaeda affiliates.
According to several reports and Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman, the targets were those believed to be responsible for the 1998 US embassy bombings, which killed 225 people. Al Sudani was also reportedly “al Qaeda’s leader in East Africa” and was involved in the 2002 Paradise Hotel bombing in Kenya that killed 13 people.
The local time of the incident is unknown.
Sources (17) [ collapse]
Geolocation notes (1) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a convoy of which some vehicles were stuck in the mud, near the port city of Ras Kamboni. The convoy was supposedly seeking deeper cover in the bush near the Kenyan border. One source noted that the strike took place on a remote island off of Ras Kamboni. Given the targets were in land vehicles, it seems unlikely they would have been on an island. However, the shape of the peninsula to the South of Ras Kamboni does look similar to an island, and may have been described as such. The information stating the vehicles got stuck in the mud whilst seeking shelter in bush areas could suggest the forest area to the West / South West of Ras Kamboni. This is also close to the Kenyan border, which is corroborated by information within the source documentation. The coordinates for this area are: -1.649594, 41.563289.
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
"WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2007 – A U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship attack in Somalia on Jan. 7 targeted senior terrorist leaders, a senior Pentagon official confirmed today.
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters the attack targeted "what we believe to be principal al Qaeda leadership" operating in the southern part of Somalia."