On Monday, a suspected US drone strike occurred near Barawe, Somalia targeting the al-Qaeda affiliate ash-Shabaab. As of right now, the target(s) are unclear; although some speculate that it could have been the emir of Shabaab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr. All the Pentagon had to say in their rare acknowledgment is: "We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate".
It is also unclear if US special operations forces were on the ground at the time of the strike. The US has confirmed it has military advisers on the ground in Somalia, and at least one special operations raid has been carried out in Somalia in recent years.
The strike comes after Shabaab launched a suicide assault on the Somali intelligence headquarters in Mogadishu. This airstrike also comes at a time when African Union and Somali troops started an offensive on the Shabaab stronghold of Barawe in the south. It should be noted that the United States has assisted operations inside Somalia via airstrikes before. In 2007 during the Battle of Ras Kamboni, the United States launched airstrikes via an AC-130 gunship on suspected Shabaab and al-Qaeda targets.
Earlier this year, President Obama made a speech at the National Defense University in which he outlined a new vision, if you will, for the War on Terror. In this vision, he said that drone strikes would be reserved for individuals who pose “a continuing, imminent threat to Americans” and who cannot be captured. As such, drone strikes this year have been down since in stark contrast to previous years. As such, it stands to reason that the person or people targeted today probably constituted a threat to Americans or American interests in the region.
This report will be updated when new information arises.
The Pentagon has confirmed today that it was indeed Godane who was targeted by the drone strike. It is still unsure whether he was killed or not. From a new supposed official twitter account of ash-Shabaab, they say that Godane just sustained injuries in the attack. However, I am still waiting on the DoD to make an official statement on the matter.
The aforementioned supposed "official" account of ash-Shabaab is supposedly fake. This has been edited to exclude the twitter links from the fake account.
It is now being reported the emir of Shabaab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr has been killed in the drone strike.