A US Special Forces drone strike allegedly killed Adan Garaar, a senior member of al Shabaab, according to the Pentagon and Somali and Kenyan officials. The attack reportedly destroyed one or two vehicles in southwestern Somalia, killing two other alleged members of the group. There are currently no reports of civilian harm from this strike.
Garaar was described as “a top official in al Shabaab’s security service, the Amniyatt.” He had reportedly replaced Yusuf Dheeq as head of al Shabaab’s external operations, which is part of the Amniyatt, after his predecssor was killed in a February 2015 drone strike.
The Pentagon confirmed a US drone strike killed Garaar a week after the attack hit, saying in a statement: “Garar was a key operative responsible for coordinating al Shabaab’s external operations, which target US persons and other Western interests in order to further al Qaeda’s goals and objectives. He posed a major threat to the region and the international community and was connected to the West Gate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya. His death has dealt another significant blow to the al Shabaab terrorist organization in Somalia.”
The US military first confirmed on March 13th it had carried out the attack, but did not immediately confirm it killed Garaar. A Pentagon spokesperson said: “This operation was conducted against the al Shebaab network.” He added: “We are currently assessing the results of this operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate.”
Somalia’s foreign minister Abdisalan Hadliye welcomed the news of Garar’s death, saying: “Somali government welcomes the effort by the U.S. in killing Garar and is open to lend a hand for any measures aimed at finishing Al-Shabaab in Somalia.”
Garar was reportedly connected to the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, in which at least 67 people died. He was also reportedly responsible for planning failed attacks in Nairobi and Kampala last year. The Kenyan security forces released details of Garaar’s role in the Westgate attack that suggests he was intimately involved with the minutiae of the operation, according to Standard Digital.
The Pentagon said the attack hit 240km west of Mogadishu, near the town of Dinsoor in the Bay region. However witnesses said the strike actually hit near Abaq Xaluul village outside Baadheere, in Gedo region, more than 80km further west.
Local resident Hussain Nur told Reuters: “I was on the outskirts of Abaq Xaluul village when a car drove past me and soon I heard the huge blast from a drone ahead of me… I saw the car and the three men on board completely burnt and then many armed al Shabaab fighters driving in cars reached the scene.”
The strike came on the same day al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attempted assassination of Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the head of South Western State, an autonomous region within the federal government. The attackers reportedly used a car bomb to break through the gate of Aden’s compound before gunmen tried to storm the complex. Eight were reportedly killed in the assault, including the three attackers.
In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM again confirmed it had struck on this date what it says was an “al-Shabaab named objective”, in the vicinity of Baardheere, Somalia.
The incident occured around dusk.