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US killed a top Al Qaeda-affiliated terror leader in airstrike

MQ-9 Reaper during Exercise Northern Strike 2019. (Arizona Air National Guard/Released)
March 10, 2020

The U.S. military says one of the top leaders of the Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab was killed in a drone strike last month.

Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, also known as Bashir Qoorgaab, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Somalia on Feb. 22, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials told Voice of America. The strike in question took place in the town of Saakow, Somalia.

News of the Al-Shabaab leader’s death was first reported in a Feb. 25 AFRICOM press release, but the identity of the leader was only just recently revealed.

“It is believed that indeed Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud, aka Bashir Qoorgaab, was killed,” AFRICOM spokesman Col. Chris Karns told VOA. “This is progress. Removal of threats, like this terrorist, make Africans and Americans a bit safer and sends a strong message to a common enemy whose ambition is to export violence and do serious harm to African partners, Americans, and international partners.”

Goorgaab was the leader of three fighting units, including the Jaysh Ayman unit known for carrying out the deadly Jan. 5 attack on the Manda Bay airbase in Kenya — a Kenyan military base housing U.S. personnel. One U.S. service member and two Department of Defense contractors were among those killed in the attack.

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“Since January 5, U.S. Africa Command and our partners have pursued those responsible for the attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces at Manda Bay,” U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of AFRICOM, said in the original AFRICOM press release. “This strike demonstrates that we will continue to relentlessly pursue those responsible for Manda Bay and those wishing to do harm to Americans and our African partners.”

The AFRICOM press release identified Al-Shabaab as the largest and most “kinetically active” Al-Qaeda affiliate and noted that the group had recently identified Americans and U.S. interests around the world as priority targets, in messaging similar to Osama Bin Laden’s 1996 declaration of war against the U.S.

Abdirahim Isse Addow, a former Islamic court official who knew Qoorgaab told VOA he was looking to replicate the Manda Bay attack on targets in other countries like Tanzania.

Addow said that Qoorgaab was not the top leader of the Al-Shabaab terror group, he was of high importance to the group’s fighters. Qoorgaab had a $5 million bounty on his head at the time of his death, the second-highest Al-Shabaab bounty after the group’s current leader, Ahmed Diriye Abu Ubaidah, who has a $6 million bounty.

Qoorgaab reportedly also trained Al-Shabaab’s special militia commandos known as “Jugta Ulus,” and commanded them in the field.

AFRICOM has carried out numerous airstrikes on Al-Shabaab targets throughout Somalia in recent weeks. The U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering legislation to keep U.S. troops in Africa while the U.S. continues to consider its role in the region.