Military strike in Somalia targeted Al-Shabaab leader, U.S. officials say
January 28th, 2014
03:13 PM ET

Military strike in Somalia targeted Al-Shabaab leader, U.S. officials say

By Barbara Starr

A U.S. military strike in southern Somalia Sunday was targeting Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based group with ties to al Qaeda, according to three US officials.

A drone operated by the U.S. Defense Department fired a Hellfire missile at a vehicle killing those inside, the officials said. But as of Tuesday, the Pentagon was unable to confirm whether Godane was killed, although he was the intended target.

The military was authorized to try to kill Godane because of current intelligence indicating he posed an "imminent threat" against U.S. interests in the region, one official said.

"We have to be able to prove he was in the process of planning additional attacks," the official said. The official would not elaborate on what the intelligence might be.

U.S. target in Somalia: An inside story on an Al-Shabaab commander
A soldier belonging to the African Union Mission in Somalia stands guard on a street during an operation aimed at improving security in Mogadishu, Somalia.
October 7th, 2013
12:10 PM ET

U.S. target in Somalia: An inside story on an Al-Shabaab commander

By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister

Editor's note: Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister are writing a book about Morten Storm and his life as a former informant on terrorist groups.

Kenyan intelligence knows him simply as Ikrima. But his full name is Mohamed Abdikadir Mohamed, and he is regarded as one of the most dangerous commanders in the Somali terror group Al-Shabaab.

U.S. officials say Ikrima was the target of a raid Saturday by U.S. Navy SEALs on an Al-Shabaab compound near the town of Baraawe in Somalia. It's believed that he escaped after the U.S. troops came under heavy fire.

Ikrima is wanted by both the Kenyan government and its Western allies and was a close associate of one of al Qaeda's most important operatives in East Africa. A recent Kenyan intelligence report that was leaked just after the Westgate mall attack in Nairobi outlined several plots in which he was allegedly involved. All of them involved targets in Kenya, and all the attacks would have involved Kenyan citizens trained by Al-Shabaab.

October 7th, 2013
11:51 AM ET

Official: Navy SEAL team pulled out when it couldn't capture suspect alive

By Barbara Starr

U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six pulled out during a raid to capture suspected Al-Shabaab leader Ikrima when it became clear that he couldn't be taken alive, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

"Their mission was to capture him. Once it became clear we were not going to able to take him, the Navy commander made the decision to withdraw," said the official, who has direct knowledge of the entire Somalia operation but declined to be identified publicly.

The official said the SEALs came under heavy opposition and an intense firefight broke out, leading to the withdrawal.

The mission's aim - to capture Ikrima - is the reason the team was used rather than a lethal drone attack, the official said.

October 6th, 2013
09:47 AM ET

U.S. forces strike in Libya, Somalia, capture al Qaeda leader

By Barbara Starr, Evan Perez and Greg Botelho, CNN

In two operations in Africa nearly 3,000 miles apart, U.S. military forces went after two high-value targets over the weekend.

One operation took place early Saturday in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, when U.S. forces captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda leader wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted the top leader of Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked with al Qaeda.

Full Story

October 5th, 2013
07:35 PM ET

U.S. forces take part in 2 Africa raids targeting alleged terrorists

By Barbara Starr and Evan Perez

U.S. military forces were involved in two separate operations in Africa - one of them targeting a member of the group Al-Shabaab that was behind last month's Kenya mall attack, and the other going after an al Qaeda leader tied to bombings of two U.S. embassies.

The Al-Shabaab raid took place in Somalia, where that terrorist group is based, sometime in the past 24 hours, a senior U.S. official said Saturday evening.

The team of U.S. Navy SEALs had to withdraw before it could confirm whether it killed the target because they came under fire, the official said. The SEALs made the "prudent decision" to withdraw rather than engage in further combat, according to the official.

The other mission ended in the capture of Abu Anas al Libi, who is suspected to have played a significant role in the August 7, 1998, bombings of American embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya, U.S. officials said.

Al-Shabaab breaks new ground with complex Nairobi attack
An image grab taken from AFP TV shows a member of the Kenyan security forces taking position inside a shopping mall following an attack by masked gunmen in Nairobi
September 23rd, 2013
07:12 AM ET

Al-Shabaab breaks new ground with complex Nairobi attack

By Paul Cruickshank and Tim Lister

The Al-Shabaab assault on a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, is alarming for its audacity, its scale and the sophisticated planning that went into it. Both the choice of target and method of attack exactly fit the new al Qaeda playbook.

Few counterterrorism experts are surprised that the Somali group launched another attack in the Kenyan capital. It has threatened to take revenge ever since Kenyan forces entered Al-Shabaab's heartland in southern Somalia. Small-scale attacks, frequently with hand grenades, have already brought bloodshed to Nairobi's streets. Back in September of last year, Kenyan authorities said they had disrupted a major plot to attack public spaces in Nairobi in its final stages of planning. Authorities also broke up a plot by the group against Western tourists in the city in late 2007.

But the scope of the assault on the Westgate Mall - and especially its eerie similarities to the attack in Mumbai, India, in 2008 - show that Al-Shabaab has taken its ability to strike outside Somalia to a new level.

Only once before has the group caused such carnage in East Africa, when bombers attacked bars and restaurants in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, on the night of the World Cup Final in 2010. More than 60 people were killed. Al-Shabaab said the attacks were in retaliation for Uganda's leading role in the African Union force supporting Somalia's weak government in Mogadishu.

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Filed under: Al-Shabaab • Kenya • Somalia
American jihadi reportedly killed in Somalia
In this handout picture taken on May 23, 2012 and made available by IntelCenter, American extremist in Somalia's Al-Qaeda affiliated rebels Omar Hammami poses with the cover of his autobiography on a laptop was released to prove the authenticity of his autobiography in an undisclosed location.
September 12th, 2013
02:15 PM ET

American jihadi reportedly killed in Somalia

By Paul Cruickshank

American Omar Hammami, who built a following in militant circles in the West for his idiosyncratic jihadist rap videos and had a U.S. bounty on his head, was among two notable jihadists reportedly killed in Somalia on Thursday.

Sources said Hammami and Briton Osama al-Britani were apparently ambushed west of Mogadishu by members of al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab.

A message posted on the al-Jihad al-Alami forum said they were killed "by an unjust raid by the Emir of the Shabaab al-Mujahideen Movement and his followers in Islamic Bay and Bakool province after clashes that lasted for several hours while they defended themselves," according to a translation by the SITE intelligence group.

Hammami, a former Al-Shabaab fighter and prolific English-language propagandist for the group with a $5 million American bounty on his head, went into hiding after falling out with the group last year.

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Filed under: Al-Shabaab • Somalia
March 25th, 2013
06:26 PM ET

Terror figure yields valuable intel

By Carol Cratty

A former top leader of a Somali terror group, who also had ties to al Qaeda, secretly pleaded guilty in 2011 to federal charges and has provided the U.S. government with valuable intelligence information, the Justice Department said on Monday.

Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame was a leader of al-Shabaab in Somalia and arranged a weapons deal at one time with Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to court documents.

The U.S. military captured him at sea in April 2011 while he was traveling from Yemen to Somalia. He pleaded guilty in New York the following December to nine terrorism charges.

Among other things, Warsame admitted to conspiring to provide material support to al-Shabaab and al Qaeda's operation in the Arabian Peninsula, conspiracy to teach others how to make bombs, and receiving miltary-type training from a terrorist organization.


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Filed under: Al Qaeda • Al-Shabaab • Intelligence • Security Brief • Somalia • Terrorism • Yemen
March 20th, 2013
03:29 PM ET

FIRST ON CNN: Bounty on two Americans tied to Somali terror group

By Elise Labott

The State Department has put a multimillion-dollar bounty on the heads of two Americans who the United States claims belong to an al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, CNN has learned.

Posters and matchbooks in Somali and English emblazoned with the names and pictures of Omar Shafik Hammami and Jehad Serwan Mostafa tout rewards up to $5 million each for information leading to their arrest or conviction. Both men are on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists List.

Image on matchbox to be distributed as part of the Rewards for Justice program

The rewards are being offered through the State Department's Rewards for Justice Program.

Hammami and Mostafa are members of Al-Shabaab, the al Qaeda affiliate in Somalia, and "have made significant contributions to this terrorist organization's media and military activities," according to a State Department statement on the rewards, obtained by CNN. They are both are believed to be in Somalia and speak English, Arabic and Somali.

A senior FBI official said the United States has information that both men "had a persistent interest in targeting U.S. interests" and are "believed to be involved in planning attacks on U.S. persons or property." But it is unclear what specific attacks against Americans, even ones that have been thwarted, these men have taken part in. Officials said that information is classified.

Hammami, a 29-year-old Alabama native, moved to Somalia in 2006. The State Department claims he joined Al-Shabaab there and received training from Islamic militants, rising through the organization's ranks to command a contingent of foreign fighters. Officials say he was also a "propagandist" for the group, helping to recruit English-speaking youth through writings, rap songs and video statements. FULL POST

U.S. supported France's failed hostage rescue in Somalia
An undated TV grab shows Denis Allex, a French hostage allegedly held -- and possibly killed -- by Somali militants.
January 13th, 2013
09:08 PM ET

U.S. supported France's failed hostage rescue in Somalia

By CNN Staff

U.S. troops lent "limited technical support" in France's bloody and unsuccessful bid in Somalia to rescue an intelligence agent who'd been held hostage for years, President Barack Obama said Sunday.

Obama detailed the U.S. military involvement in the Friday night mission in a letter sent to the leaders of the nation's two legislative chambers. The letter was released publicly as well.

While U.S. forces "provided limited technical support," they "took no direct part in the assault on the compound where it was believed the French citizen was being held hostage," the president explained.

Read more of the story here.

Filed under: France • Military • Somalia
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