A U.S. helicopter raid on a car in southern Somalia, has killed a significant Al-Qaeda terrorist. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was wanted by the FBI for a series of attacks on American and Israeli targets, was killed along with at least one other Al-Qaeda terrorist. Nabhan was considered one of Al-Qaeda's leading activists in the region and, according to Somalia expert Rashid Abdi, "a man with an important organizational memory, and if a key figure like him is killed, it always has a major impact."
Nabhan was wanted by the FBI in connection with the 1998 bombings of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, a 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned Kenyan hotel, and a 2002 attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in Kenya. Nabhan was believed to be an associate of Al Qaeda member Harun Fazul, who was indicted in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies.
The strike followed a 2006 declaration by the FBI seeking the arrest of Nabhan, in connection to the embassy bombings, as well as a failed strike against him in March of 2008. Such foreign strikes are a relatively rare affair in Somalia, where the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab movement controls large chunks of territory and has fought years of continuous civil war. The French have conducted raids in response to pirate attacks, but Western countries largely have stayed away from direct involvement against the growing Al-Shabab movement.
However, targeted strikes may be used in the future to prevent Al-Qaeda from gaining a larger foothold in the failed Somali state. An unnamed Somali government official praised the attack and said it creates an opportunity:
"These young fighters do not have the same skills as their colleagues in Afghanistan or elsewhere when it comes to foreign airstrikes… They are in confusion now. I hope the world takes action."
The attack would hurt al Qaeda more than Al-Shabab, Abdi said. An Al-Qaeda spokesman threatened that Americans "will taste the bitterness of our response."