Flashpoints

Airstrike takes out a top terrorist suspected of involvement in attack on US personnel in Kenya

Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, a senior al-Shabab leader suspected of involvement in the attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces in Manda Bay, Kenya, was killed in a late February airstrike in Somalia, U.S. Africa Command officials said Sunday.

Mahamoud, also known as Bashir Qoorgaab, was a member of al-Shabab for more than a decade and had coordinated al-Qaida activity within Somalia, according to the U.S. State Department, which had offered up to a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture. AFRICOM officials believe he was involved in terrorist plots within Somalia and neighboring Kenya.

“This terrorist was responsible for the pain and suffering of many innocent people,” Air Force Col. Christopher Karns, AFRICOM’s director of public affairs, told Military Times. “He can no longer inflict physical pain on others, nor export his hate and violence more broadly. What we are doing in Somalia is meaningful basic security insurance for Africa and the long term security of America, the continent and our international partners.”

Karns added that Mahamoud had a “suspected association” with the planning of al-Shabab’s attack on Manda Bay airfield Jan. 5, which resulted in the deaths of Army Spc. Henry Mayfield Jr., 23, and two Defense Department contractors, Dustin Harrison, 47, and Bruce Triplett, 64.

A senior-leader-led investigation evaluating the circumstances leading up to the attack is underway.

AFRICOM had reported Feb. 25 that a senior al-Shabab leader associated with planning the Manda Bay attack — as well as his wife, also a member of al-Shabab — were killed in a Feb. 22 airstrike near Saakow, about 200 miles west of Mogadishu. Karns confirmed Mahamoud was that individual.

Al-Shabab has approximately 5,000 to 7,000 militants in Somalia. AFRICOM officials told reporters in January they believe al-Shabab militants from Somalia entered Kenya with the help of facilitators within that country.

Last year, AFRICOM conducted 63 airstrikes in Somalia — a record for the command. AFRICOM has so far conducted more than 20 airstrikes in Somalia this year, including one conducted in the area of Gandarshe, Somalia, Saturday. The command said in a news release it estimates four militants were killed in that strike.

“These air strikes reflect our resolve against this common enemy and at the same time, permanently remove dangerous terrorists from doing further harm,” Karns said.

“This is progress,” Karns added. “Removal of threats, like this terrorist, make Africans and Americans a bit safer and sends a strong message to a common enemy whose ambition is to export violence and do serious harm to African partners, Americans and international partners.”

Although al-Shabab has a desire to target U.S. interests and even attack the U.S. homeland, AFRICOM does not believe that the violent extremist organization has the capacity to conduct such an attack in the United States this time.

The U.S. has approximately 6,000 Department of Defense personnel in Africa. Within Somalia, the U.S. has an average of 650 to 800 U.S. forces at any given time, according to the command.

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