AMISOM and U.S. Forces Kill Several High-Level Commanders in Al Shabaab

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On Tuesday, April 5, 2016, the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) reported it had killed several top commanders of the terrorist organization, Al Shabaab. The commanders killed include: Abdirashir Bugdube, Sheik Mohamed Ali, Aden Bale, a Yemeni bomb maker named “Abu Islam,” Mohamed Abribao, and Sheikh Mansur.

Al Shabaab has been experiencing increased resistance from African Union (AU) and U.S. forces in the new year. In February, the Kenyan Defense Force (KDF) targeted a training camp for Al Shabaab’s intelligence division, Amniyat, in an airstrike. The strike killed over 50 Al Shabaab members as well as the head of Amniyat, Mahad Mohammed Karatey. In March, the U.S. targeted another Al Shabaab training camp, reportedly killing 150.

Buqdube was listed as one of the top 12 most wanted Al Shabaab members by the Somali government. Buqdube was responsible for the attack on a Ugandan army base, last September. The attack killed 12 Ugandan soldiers, although Al Shabaab claimed they may have killed upwards of 70. After the attack he was promoted to commander of the Janaale region, where this past January another AMISOM base was attacked.

Buqdube was killed when AMISOM forces on patrol intercepted a vehicle carrying the commander.  Also killed in the Janaale region were Sheik Mohamed Ali and Mohammed Abribao. Mohamed Ali served as second in command of the Janaale region, while Abribao served as a judge.

Along with killing the commander of the Janaale region, AMISOM forces were able to kill the commander of the Lego region, Aden Bale. Last June, Al Shabaab raided a Burundi base in the Lego region killing 50 soldiers.

Al Shabaab also lost Sheik Mansour, a chief Al Shabaab trainer in the lower Shabelle region. By attacking Al Shabaab’s training capability, the AU and U.S. forces may be able to slow down major operations carried out by the group.

While the AMISOM forces had a series of successes against Al Shabaab, so has the U.S. IBTimes reported that the U.S. was able to kill Hassan Ali Dhoore, one of Amniyat’s head officials. It is believed that Dhoore was behind to attacks on the Somalia capital, Mogadishu. The Pentagon stated Dhoore’s death is “a significant blow to al-Shabaab’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.”

Over the past year, Al Shabaab has been able to reclaim some of the territory it lost to AU forces in 2011. However, AU and U.S. forces may be beginning to push back against the group. Al Shabaab primarily operated in southern Somalia, but they have recently begun to increase attacks and their presence in the Puntland, the northern semi-autonomous region of Somalia.

In March, Al Shabaab took control of the port town of Garad, but soon after lost the city to Puntland forces. This poses complications to the AMISOM mission, as the Puntland lies outside their jurisdiction. Previous to the 2011 AMISOM offensive, Al Shabaab controlled several port cities along the Somali coast that were used to trade charcoal. Al Shabaab also assassinated a Puntland official last week after a suicide bomber who detonated his bomb after hugging the target.

Al Shabaab’s move into the Puntland may be an attempt to stretch AU forces thin. It would appear that AMISOM is once again pushing back against the group, and Al Shabaab is losing leadership quickly. By moving into the Puntland, Al Shabaab may be forcing AMISOM to no longer just focus on the south. If AMISOM leaves Al Shabaab alone in the north, it risks the group controlling a similar amount of territory it had at its height.

While AMISOM and U.S. forces have been able to inflict heavy losses against Al Shabaab’s leadership and ground forces, it is unclear if this will have any meaningful effect. Leadership targeting has been ineffective in the past, and it is too early to tell if the new strategy of targeting camps will be impactful.

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