A British al Shabaab fighter, Bilal al-Berjawi, was killed by a US drone strike in or near the town of Elasha Biyaha, 15km south of Mogadishu, local and international media reported. There were no reports of civilian harm.
Three missiles fired from a drone operated by JSOC killed British-Lebanese militant Bilal al-Berjawi, also known as Abu Hafsa. The US intelligence services and military had had him under surveillance for days according to the Associated Press. Al-Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage later said that “‘around 1400, a US drone targeted our mujahideen. One foreigner, a Lebanese with a British passport, died.” A witness who gave his name as Osman told the New York Times there were two strikes: “One hit a car, which I believe held explosives.”
The strike was also confirmed to AP by a US official in Washington.
Berjawi was known to have been injured in US airstrikes in June 2011 and was suspected to have sought medical assistance in Nairobi at that time.
The Guardian reported that Berjawi’s wife had given birth to a child in a London hospital a few hours before the attack, prompting suspicions that his location had been pinpointed through a telephone conversation between the couple. The killing caused a rift within militant circles, reports suggested, with al-Shabaab calling an emergency meeting after the drone strike amid accusations that some leaders “may be involved in this latest killing to pursue their own goals.”
In February 2013 an investigation by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and published by The Independent revealed that al Berjawi had had his British citizenship stripped by the UK’s then Home Secretary. A British-Lebanese citizen who came to the UK as a baby and grew up in London, Berjawi left for Somalia in 2009 with his close friend British-born Mohamed Sakr, himself killed by a US drone in February 2012. The friends were among dozens of people to lose their British citizenship at the order of successive Home Secretaries.
In July 2012, al Shabaab executed three militants whom they accused of spying for the CIA and MI6. Ishaq Omar Hassan, 22, and Yasin Osman Ahmed, 23, were accused of working for the Americans. Al Shabaab official Sheikh Mohamed Abu Abdallah said they “had fixed a device on Bilal el Berjawi’s car and then he was killed by a plane in Elasha six months ago.” Abu Abdallah also alleged that 33-year-old Mukhtar Ibrahim Sheikh Ahmed had been working for British intelligence.
In 2015, investigative reporter Ryan Gallagher revealed in The Intercept that leaked US intelligence documents showed that Berjawi had been labelled Objective Peckham prior to his targeted assassination.
The incident occured at approximately 2:00 pm local time.