A suspected U.S. drone bombed an area in southern Somalia on Sunday, reportedly killing five people, at least two of whom are said to be members of the al-Shabab militia.
Though the number was not confirmed, it remains unclear who the other three people killed in the attack may have been. Reports from the scene indicate that a car or envoy was targeted.
The latest apparent drone attack in Somalia follows on several recent U.S. bombings in Yemen, including one earlier this month in which a farmer was killed and another in December that hit a wedding convoy that left at least a dozen civilians dead.
All part of the U.S. global war on terror that began in 2001, attacks like Sunday's in Somalia—a country with which we are not at war—have now become remarkably common. And, so long as alleged "terrorists" are said to be the targets, almost no objection to the ongoing aerial assassination campaign is raised.
As Daphne Eviatar, a lawyer with Human Rights First, tweeted following news of the latest attack in Somalia:
What right does the US have to secretly kill people in Somalia, & why isn't US media asking? http://t.co/7rSw7vhnHP
— Daphne Eviatar (@deviatar) January 27, 2014
Regarding Sunday's incident, the BBC reports:
Local residents told BBC Somalia correspondent Mohamed Mwalimu that al-Shabab commander Sahal Iskudhuq and the others had been killed as they were traveling in a convoy which was hit by a missile.
Al-Shabab fighters cordoned off the area after the attack, they added.
The group has not yet commented.
Iskudhuq was said to be close to al-Shabab leader Ahmed Godane, with a large number of fighters under his control, our correspondent says.
Two U.S. military officials confirmed with the Associated Press that there was, in fact, "a missile strike against a senior al-Shabab leader in Somalia." Neither official would discuss the identity of who was being targeted but said the U.S. government was still "assessing the effectiveness of the strike."
However, as AP reports, the incident—whether "effective" or not by the U.S. or Somali government—is likely to exacerbate tensions as militia members immediately vowed retribution for the attack:
Abu Mohamed, an al-Shabab commander, told The Associated Press that Sahal Iskudhuq — who was killed in Sunday's attack — had previously been in charge of kidnappings of foreigners and ransom deals for the group but recently turned to working with its intelligence unit. In that role, according to Mohamed, Iskudhuq chose targets for bombings and helped to plan attacks.
Some members of the group went to the scene in a village called Hawai and chanted "God is great" as they put the remains in sacks and then sped away in their pick-up trucks to bury the victims, Mohamed said. Iskudhuq was a senior al-Shabab member who was a trusted friend of the group's spiritual leader and top commander, Ahmed Abdi Godane.
Mohamed, who visited the scene of the attack, said by phone that Iskudhuq's driver was also killed when a missile hit their car in Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, and that their bodies were charred beyond recognition. Al-Shabab would "retaliate with a bigger blow and pain against the enemy," Mohamed said.