Attack by an unmanned U.S. aircraft in Somalia has killed a senior member of the al-Shabab militant group, a U.S. official with knowledge of the operation said Friday.
The victim of the U.S. drone attack, Hassan Ali Dhore, led a team of al-Shabab assassins, Somali officials said. He was named by the Somali government last year on a “most-wanted” list of 12 al-Shabab members involved in terror attacks in Mogadishu.
At the U.S. Defense Department, press secretary Peter Cook confirmed the U.S. carried out the airstrike Thursday in cooperation with Somali forces. He said Dhore planned and led previous attacks that killed, at least, three U.S. citizens, and that he was suspected of plotting further attacks against Americans in the East African country.
“While we are still assessing the results of this operation,” Cook said, “removing Dhore from the battlefield would be a significant blow to al-Shabab’s operational planning and [it’s] ability to conduct attacks against… Somalia, its citizens, U.S. partners in the region and against Americans abroad.”
Links to al-Qaida
Al-Shabab militants, who have staged attacks in Kenya as well as throughout Somalia, are considered to be closely related to the al-Qaida terror network.
The deputy commander of Somalia’s army, General Ali Bashe, told journalists that Somali commandos operating deep in al-Shabab-controlled territory located and identified Dhore.
“This was a successful operation, and it will continue,” the general said.
In an interview with VOA Somali service, Bashe said Dhore was killed at Toratorow village in a battle with Somali forces using the help of U.S. military experts.
Unlike the U.S. official’s report, the Somali general said it was not clear whether Dhore was killed by a drone or by gunfire. At least two other Somali militants were killed along with Dhore.
Dhore commanded al-Shabab’s Amniyat security and intelligence group, which included a feared squad of assassins that targeted lawmakers and other officials in the Somali capital. Two other people, not yet identified, were killed at the same time as Dhore, Somali officials said.
A U.S. Defense official said the strike took place about 30 kilometers south of Jilib, which is southwest of the capital, Mogadishu. He said the U.S. military had been watching Dhore off and one for a long time and the Somali government shared information that led to the attack.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in a note on Twitter Thursday night that his country’s army and allied forces were in the midst of a massive attack against al-Shabab. The presidential tweet was unusual in that it disclosed an operation still underway.
A similar commando raid on March 9 in Awdhegle town, 120 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu, was carried out jointly by U.S. and Somali special forces. Awdhegle is near the area where Dhore was hit on Thursday.
Reports from the Lower Shabelle region early Friday said a second drone strike was launched against an al-Shabab vehicle near the town of Jannaale, but further details were not yet available.
The Pentagon statement disclosing the U.S. military operation said Dhore played “a direct role” in a December 2014 attack on Mogadishu airport that killed several members of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) and one U.S. citizen.
“Dhore was also directly responsible for the March 27, 2015, attack on the Maka al-Mukarram Hotel in Mogadishu, resulting in the deaths of 15 people, including one Somali-American national,” the U.S. statement said.