Perhaps with Americans’ attention focused on President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and the Super Bowl, it’s easy to overlook another military strike against our country’s sworn enemies.
But there was one on Sunday in Somalia against a leader of Al Shabaab. That ‘s the brutal terrorist group that is affiliated with al-Qaeda and wants to turn Somalia into a fundamentalist Islamic state.
There have been conflicting reports of the strike’s success, and U.S. officials have been reluctant to identify the target of the strike, which occurred near a village in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region. However, a commander of Al Shabaab told reporters that the strike killed Sahal Iskudhuq and his driver. Iskudhuq was a senior member who recently shifted to intelligence activities such as selecting targets and planning attacks. Before that he had been in charge of kidnapping foreigners.
The Al Shabaab commander who discussed the strike, Abu Mohamed, did so as fighters went to the burned-out car to gather the remains of the dead men for burial. He said Iskudhuq was a close friend of Ahmad Abdi Godane, the group’s commander and spiritual leader. In addition to burying their comrade, militants were vowing revenge, promising “a bigger blow and pain against the enemy.”
Sunday’s strike was the second successful strike against Al Shabaab in recent months. In October, Al Shabaab’s top explosives expert was killed in a drone strike. That came after U.S. SEALs launched a raid on a coastal town in search of another key leader who is believed to have been the chief planner of a plot to attack Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations office in Kenya. Although the SEALs withdrew before accomplishing their mission, their raid served as a reminder that there was no safe place for terrorists to hide.
Al Shabaab is believed to have lost much of its influence in Somalia since African Union forces ousted it from Mogadishu in 2011. Still it remains lethal, in and outside of Somalia. Some of its deadliest attacks, including the attack on an upscale mall in Nairobi last September in which dozens of people were killed, have occurred in Kenya. Other deadly attacks have occurred in Uganda.
The removal of one more influential terrorist from the battlefield won’t end this war. Far from it. But the relentless pursuit of such individuals by our armed forces and intelligence agencies can bring that day a little closer.