Today's D Brief: ISIS official killed in Somalia; New missile sub delayed; US widens Wagner sanctions; Crime rate falls; And a bit more.
The United States military says a major ISIS financier was killed during a raid on a “mountainous cave complex” in northeastern Somalia on Wednesday. Plans for the raid were finalized last week, and President Biden personally approved the operation earlier this week, U.S. officials told reporters Thursday.
Deceased: Bilal al-Sudani. White House officials referred to him as a “key operative and facilitator for ISIS’s global network.” The U.S. plan was to capture him alive, “but the hostile forces’ response to the operation resulted in his death,” the officials said. From those caves where he was killed, “Bilal al-Sudani is assessed to have supported ISIS’s expansion and activities across Africa and beyond the continent, in particular by providing funding to sustain the operational capabilities of ISIS elements around the world; that includes the ISIS Khorasan branch in Afghanistan, one of ISIS’s most lethal branches,” a White House official said.
Sudani has been on America’s radar since at least 2012 due to his work with the Somalia-based al-Shabaab terrorist group. Indeed, “Before he joined ISIS, he was designated by the U.S. Treasury Department in 2012 for his role in Shabaab: helping foreign fighters to travel to an al Shabaab training camp and facilitating financing for foreign violent extremists in Somalia,” the White House said.
According to Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin, “Al-Sudani was responsible for fostering the growing presence of ISIS in Africa and for funding the group’s operations worldwide, including in Afghanistan,” the defense secretary said in a statement Thursday. “This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad,” Austin said.
U.S. troops also snatched up some intelligence from the site, but White House officials were understandably tightlipped about what that included. They also claimed no civilians were harmed in the operation.
Panning out: Nearly 70% of Africans live in a country where security is worse now than it was 10 years ago. That’s according to a new report from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation known as the annual index of African governance. Quartz spotted the report Thursday, and shared some of its findings, including:
- “The most secure countries to live in are Seychelles, Mauritius, Botswana, Cape Verde, and Namibia”;
- And “Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Eritrea, Somalia, and South Sudan are the least secure countries,” Quartz writes.
Also: Nearly two dozen African nations (23) have witnessed coup attempts in the past 10 years; they include: Mali, Malawi, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Niger, Sudan, Eritrea, Benin, Central Africa Republic, Libya, Comoros, Burundi, Chad, Egypt, DRC, Lesotho, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Ethiopia. Read the report in full (PDF), here.
From Defense One
Russian Robot Maker Working On Bot to Target Abrams, Leopard Tanks // By Patrick Tucker: But is it all just a PR stunt?
Next Missile Sub 'Facing Delays' Due to Design, Materials, and Quality, GAO Says // By Caitlin M. Kenney: Electric Boat is pulling workers from the Virginia program to help the Columbia effort, but at unknown risks to cost and schedule, the watchdog wrote in a new report.
Left in Limbo, a Handful of Biden's Defense Picks Await Senate Action // By Bradley Peniston: Four nominees—all people of color—received committee approval months ago but have yet to get a Senate vote.
Welcome to this Friday edition of The D Brief, brought to you by Ben Watson with Jennifer Hlad. If you’re not already subscribed to this newsletter, you can do that here. On this day in 1967, officials from the Soviet Union, the U.S., and the U.K. signed the Outer Space Treaty, banning nuclear weapons in space and limiting the moon to peaceful purposes, which meant the U.S. couldn’t detonate a nuclear weapon on the moon, as it had secretly considered nearly a decade earlier.
Another barrage of Russian missiles and drones killed nearly a dozen Ukrainians on Thursday, which is almost 340 days into Moscow’s invasion of its democratic neighbor. Kyiv’s military says it shot down all 17 of the Iranian-made Shahed exploding drones; but they only shot down 47 of an estimated 70 cruise missiles targeting at least 11 regions across the country. The Associated Press reported Thursday’s Russian strikes were the first of their kind since Jan. 14; but Moscow followed it up with another wave on Friday that killed 10 more people so far, according to AP, reporting from Kyiv.
“Russian forces have enough drones for only a few more large-scale strikes unless they have received or will soon receive a new shipment of drones from Iran,” the Institute for the Study of War wrote Thursday evening in their latest battlefield analysis.
New: Canada joined the tank coalition Thursday when Defense Minister Anita Anand announced Ottawa will soon send four of its Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine. “These four tanks are combat-ready and will be deployed over the coming weeks,” she said. “These tanks will allow Ukraine to liberate even more of its territory and defend its people from Russia's brutal invasion,” she added. Those four push the confirmed total of Leopards announced for Ukraine into the 70s so far.
- Who else is in the “tank coalition,” and who else might be soon? H.I. Sutton has been keeping tabs in a chart over on Twitter that you can find, here.
American officials announced an assortment of new sanctions against Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, which is now a Transnational Criminal Organization to the U.S. Treasury Department. The new sanctions target eight individuals and 16 entities, and four aircraft owned by a cargo company called JSC Aviacon Zitotrans. “As one example of its efforts, as of September 2022, Aviacon Zitotrans sought to use a Turkish company and Turkish diplomats to facilitate the sale of Russian defense equipment abroad on behalf of Rosoboroneksport OAO,” which is one of Moscow’s state-owned defense firms.
Also targeted with these new sanctions: Russian drone-maker AO Ural Civil Aviation Factory, repair firm Joint Stock Company National Aviation Service Company, communications equipment provider LLC Research & Production Enterprise Prima, anti-aircraft and -missile manufacturer JSC Aerospace Defense Concern Almaz-Antey, and—of course—the Wagner Group. UAE-based Kratol Aviation was also targeted for allegedly ferrying Wagner “personnel and equipment between the CAR, Libya, and Mali.”
The U.S. is also sanctioning Russian and Chinese satellite imagery firms Joint Stock Company Terra Tech, and Changsha Tianyi Space Science and Technology Research Institute Co. LTD, respectively. One of China’s subsidiaries based in Luxembourg was also hit with sanctions because they’ve “shared foreign high-resolution satellite imagery with Russia’s military,” the U.S. Treasury Department said.
The U.S. appears to be “trying to constrain the Wagner Group’s likely renewed focus on conducting operations outside of Ukraine,” the Institute for the Study of War said after the sanctions were announced. And this is likely because “The Wagner Group has likely renewed efforts to increase security capacity building and counterterrorism roles in African countries, roles that the Wagner Group had focused heavily on before committing serious resources to the Russian invasion of Ukraine,” according to ISW.
See how Russia’s Ukraine invasion has somewhat rerouted the global oil trade, as evidenced in a new multimedia presentation from the Wall Street Journal’s datavisual team, which compared ship tracking data in the months before and after Russian tanks entered Ukraine in late February.
- “Hungary will veto EU sanctions on Russian nuclear energy, PM Orban says,” Reuters reported Friday from Budapest;
- “French, Dutch ministers visit NATO battlegroup in Romania,” AP reported Friday from Bucharest;
- “U.S. Leans on Turkey to End Russian Flights With American-Made Planes,” the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday from Istanbul;
- “Russia says it will switch four occupied Ukrainian regions to Moscow time,” the New York Times reported Friday;
- And “Zelensky's government launches anti-corruption drive,” the BBC reported Friday after a purging of select officials this week.
And lastly: Violent crime rates fell in some major cities in 2022, but are still higher than pre-COVID levels, the New York Times reported Thursday off of a report by the Council on Criminal Justice. The organization looked at crime statistics in 35 cities, finding that homicides, gun assaults, and domestic violence reports went down in 2022 for the cities that reported that data, but carjackings spiked. In fact, the report found, thefts of vehicles more than doubled in eight cities, including Norfolk, Va., the Times reported. Read more about the findings, here.