The US military carried out an airstrike against ISIS-Somalia in the vicinity of Xiriiro, Bari Region, killing one high value militant and at least one other alleged fighter.
According to AFRICOM – which took the unusual step of publicly naming the target within 24 hours of the operation – the strike killed Abdulhakim Dhuqub, second in command of ISIS-Somalia who was reportedly responsible for daily operations of the extremist group, including attack planning and resource procurement.
The press release further asserted that only Dhuqub was killed in the attack, and that one vehicle was also destroyed. US Africa Command said it currently assessed that no civilians were harmed in the strike.
AP indicated that two or more died in the strike: “Puntland’s security minister Abdisamad Mohamed Galan also confirmed the killing of the extremist leader in the U.S. airstrike, which said also killed other members of the group, without giving further details. The airstrike occurred as the extremists were traveling to their base in the remote mountainous villages in the region, said a Somali intelligence official. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.”
According to Voice of America, two people died in the attack: “Abdisamad Mohamed Gallan, security Minister of the Puntland region, told VOA Somali the airstrike that killed Abdihakim Mohamed Ibrahim, known as Dhoqob, took place Sunday between the villages of Hol Anod and Hiriro.
“Gallan said the strike hit the vehicle Dhoqob and another passenger were travelling in. He said both men were killed but the other person has not yet been identified. ‘The vehicle was burned,’ said a witness who didn’t want to be named.”
VOA reporter Harun Maruf also tweeted a video which he said showed the burnt out shell of the struck vehicle on a remote sandy road: “Video purportedly shows the burning vehicle that Abdihakim Dhoqob (aka Abdihakim Dhoqobeed) was riding in when hit by an airstrike near Hiriro village, Bari region. Puntland Security minister Abdisamad Mohamed Gallan tells me that Dhoqob was killed in the strike.”
According to Reuters “A witness said a 4×4 vehicle was hit by several missiles 3 km (2 miles) outside the village of Xiriiro in the Qandala hills at 1 p.m. (1000 GMT) on Sunday.”
“Several missiles hit a Suzuki car. Then helicopters hovered over the scene,” Mohamed Iid, a resident of Xiriiro, told Reuters. “It was a deafening air strike. We reached the scene after the helicopters left. The car completely melted.”
Fox News noted that “Not much is known about Dhuqub; his name does not appear on the State Dept.’s Reward for Justice website normally reserved for top terrorists and there is not much information publicly available online. ISIS-Somalia is a relatively small terrorist group consisting of roughly 125 fighters, according to officials.”
The Long War Journal provided some context foir the strike: “Dhuqub, whose real name was Abdihakim Mohamed Ibrahim, was the overall deputy emir of ISS. He assumed this role after the death of the previous deputy emir, Mahad Moalim, in Mogadishu late last year… In 2018, ISS was able to expand its operation across Somalia. Last year, it claimed 66 offensives alone; while in the previous two years combined it only claimed 39 attacks. It also also been able to reach into central Somalia, which was previously untouched by the Islamic State wing, as well as Mogadishu and its surroundings. According to local officials, it has also been collecting taxes on civilians and businesses in rural Puntland as well as in the port city of Bosaso.
“Its operational tempo has not slowed despite a renewed Shabaab effort against the group. So far this year it has already claimed 26 assaults, according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal. Yesterday’s strike that killed Dhuqub was the first by the US military that targeted ISS’ network in Somalia since Nov. 2017. AFRICOM hit ISS four times that month. No senior ISS leaders were killed in those strikes.”
The incident occured at approximately 1:00 pm local time.
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Geolocation notes (2) [ collapse]
Reports of the incident mention that the strike targeted a vehicle between the villages Xiriiro and Hol Anod (or Hul Canood), 3 kilometers outside of Xiriiro in the Qandala hills. The coordinates for Xiriiro are: 9.97824, 50.25085; the coordinates for Hol Anod/Hul Canood are: 9.68385, 50.60734. And the coordinates for the area 3 kilometers outside of Xiriiro, on the way to Hol Anod, are: 9.974438, 50.277735. Due to limited information and satellite imagery available to Airwars, we were unable to verify the location further.
US Forces Assessment:
Original strike reports
"U.S. confirms airstrike against ISIS-Somalia’s Abdulhakim Dhuqub.
In coordination with the Federal Government of Somalia's continued efforts to degrade violent extremist organizations, U.S. Africa Command conducted an airstrike in the vicinity of Xiriiro, Bari Region, Somalia, on April 14, 2019, killing Abdulhakim Dhuqub, a high ranking ISIS-Somalia official."