In the first known lethal drone strike in Somalia, Predators struck a militant training camp 10km south of Kismayo. Further missiles reportedly hit a second target near the airport. At least one member of Al-Shabaab was killed – possibly “many” – and up to three were wounded, according to local and international media. There were no reports of civilian harm.
Several sources reported at least one militant’s death while other pointed to “many”. Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, Somalia’s deputy defence minister, told AP the strike killed “many” foreign fighters. “I have their names, but I don’t want to release them,” he claimed.
Ibrahim al Afghani, also known as Ibrahim Haji Jama Mead, a senior leader in al Shabaab, was reportedly wounded or killed, although Strategic Forecasting claimed on August 11th 2011 that Afghani was alive and had replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane as the emir of al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab did not respond to either report, though Afghani has not appeared in public since. Somali Report, however, cited an al Shabaab official who claimed that no militants were killed.
Meanwhile, between one and three militants were wounded, according to reports. A local al Shabaab leader, Sheik Hassan Yaqub, reported two wounded while resident Mohammed Aden reported seeing three wounded militants. Among them was British citizen Bilal al Berjawi, killed in a subsequent US drone strike in January 2012.
There was no public announcement of the strike by the US. However, an anonymous “senior U.S. military official familiar with the operation” told the Washington Post “a U.S. drone aircraft fired on two leaders of a militant Somali organization tied to al-Qaeda, apparently wounding them”.
The Washington Post added: “Both of the al-Shabab leaders targeted in the attack had ‘direct ties’ to American-born cleric Anwar al-Aulaqi, the military official said.” However, the Post reported that “The White House declined” to respond to questions about the attack.
US helicopters reportedly landed after the strike, with troops retrieving some dead and injured. The strike was the first joint mission conducted by JSOC and the CIA, CNN claimed.
In a subsequent FOIA response obtained by journalist Joshua Eaton in May 2019, AFRICOM said it had conducted a strike on what it says was an “al-Shabaab name objective”, in Ras Matooni, Somalia on June 21st 2011. This is the closest match we have for this strike.
It remains possible that there were other US actions – perhaps covert – around this time. The Long War Journal said that a “Predator” strike occurred on June 25th. And Somalia Report flagged an incident the previous day, asserting that “On June 24th, helos from Camp Simba took out a Shabaab convoy.”
The incident occured between 7:00 pm and 8:00 pm local time.