US Confirms Drone Strike Killed Al-Shabaab Leader Tied to Mall Attack

Kenyan soldiers with the African Union Mission in Somalia stand guard on a street in the southern Somalia port city of Kismayo, on Oct. 5, 2012.

AP Photo/AU-UN IST, Stuart Price

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Kenyan soldiers with the African Union Mission in Somalia stand guard on a street in the southern Somalia port city of Kismayo, on Oct. 5, 2012.

A U.S. drone last week killed Adan Garar, who Pentagon officials said planned Western attacks and was linked to Kenya’s West Gate Mall massacre.

American forces used a drone to target and kill a member of the al-Shabaab terrorist network who was tied to the terrorist attack at a luxury shopping mall in Kenya two years ago, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.

An American drone killed Adan Garar, described by defense officials as a member of al-Shabaab’s intelligence and security wing, in Dinsoor, in south-central Somalia, on March 12.

“The attack was a success and resulted in the death of Garar,” according to a Pentagon statement released late Wednesday.

Defense officials said Garar was considered a high-ranking operative responsible for coordinating the terrorist network’s external operations that target Western interests in a way that “further al-Qaida’s goals and objectives.”

“He posed a major threat to the region and the international community and was connected to the West Gate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya,” according to the Pentagon statement. “His death has dealt another significant blow to the al Shabab terrorist organization in Somalia.”

Pentagon officials would not say if any other militants were targeted in the strike or if it had caused any civilian casualties. But J. Peter Pham, director of the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council, citing conversations he had had with Somali officials as early as last week, said two other militants had been killed in the drone attack. That couldn’t be immediately confirmed by U.S. officials.

Garar was not very well known but in fact was considered “a major Shabab player,” Pham said, and “one of their more skilled operatives.” He had participated in attacks outside Somalia, including in Uganda and Kenya, Pham said.

Pentagon officials will only acknowledge publicly three American military personnel who comprise what’s known as the Mogadishu Coordination Cell, which works with the Somali government.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the prolonged mall attack of September 2013 in which nearly 70 people were killed.

President Barack Obama has heralded counterterrorism operations in Somalia and Yemen as a success, linking drones with indigenous forces to go after militants. Critics of the administration and others  believe the White House has overstated the effect that those operations have had in either country.

Last fall, the U.S. confirmed that American forces had killed al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane in what was described at the time as a significant blow to the organization.

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