Saturday April 2, 2016
By Dan Lamothe
A Predator drone. (Photo courtesy Getty Images)
The U.S. military carried out a drone strike in Somalia Thursday against a senior member of the al-Shabab militant group who has overseen attacks resulting in the deaths of at least three U.S. citizens, Pentagon officials said Friday.
Hassan Ali Dhoore, the al-Shabab figure, also was a member al-Qaeda, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said in a statement. Dhoore was part of al-Shabab’s security and intelligence section, and was involved in plotting more attacks against Americans in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Cook said.
“While we are still assessing the results of this operation, removing Dhoore from the battlefield would be a significant blow to al-Shabab’s operational planning and ability to conduct attacks against the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia, its citizens, U.S. partners in the region, and against Americans abroad,” Cook’s statement said.
A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the operation, said the strike occurred about 20 miles from the town of Jilib, southwest of Mogadishu. The airstrike hit a vehicle in which Dhoore was traveling with two other members of al-Shabab in the early evening.
The defense official said the U.S. military has been “watching him off and on for a long time,” and that the Somali government was involved in sharing information that led to the attack. It marks the second time in a month that the Pentagon acknowledged carrying out airstrikes in Somalia. In the last one, a series of strikes were launched on an al-Shabab training camp in Raso, about 120 miles north of Mogadishu.
Cook said Dhoore played a direct role in the Dec. 25, 2014, attack on Mogadishu International Airport that killed several troops with the African Union mission in Somalia and one American. He also was “directly responsible” for a March 27, 2015, attack on the Maka al-Mukarram Hotel in Mogadishu, which killed 15 people including one Somali-American, the Pentagon said.
Separately, Dhoore also was involved in the assassination of a member of the Somali parliament who held both Somali and American citizenship, the defense official said.
The American killed in the Christmas 2014 attack on the Mogadishu airport was Brett Fredricks, a retired member of the Army’s secretive Delta Force who was working in Somalia as a defense contractor, according to a Foreign Policy magazine story. His company, Bancroft, was training African troops to fight the militants.
The March 2015 attack on the hotel in Mogadishu killed at least 18 people, including Somalia’s ambassador to Switzerland, Yusuf Mohamed Baribari,according to media reports. At least 28 more people were reported wounded.