The Pentagon confirmed that U.S. forces bombed a location in Somalia on Monday, though spokesperson Rear Adm. John Kirby said the "results of the operation" were still being assessed and that additional information would only be provided to the public "as and when appropriate."
An air strike by U.S. military forces struck an area where leaders of Somalia's al Qaeda-linked militants were meeting, intelligence sources said on Tuesday, but it was unclear whether any insurgent commanders were killed.
The strike prompted rumors among Somali government officials that it had targeted al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane and other leaders who were suspected to have been at the location, but there was no confirmation they were hit.
According to the Washington Post, the Pentagon "did not say whether the operation was limited to drone strikes or whether U.S. commandos had been present on the ground."
In its reporting, the Post speculated the target was different than the al Shabaab operative noted by Reuters, reporting:
The U.S. government’s Voice of America news service, which broadcasts programs to Somalia, reported that a target of the attack may have been the alleged mastermind of al-Shabab’s attack on an upscale shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013. That individual, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane, has emerged in recent years as the primary leader of al-Shabab, which means “the youth” in Arabic and has ties to al-Qaeda.
Voice of America, citing militants and African Union security sources in Somalia, reported that Godane was in the vicinity of the attack, but his fate was unknown. The broadcaster’s report could not be independently verified.
The U.S. military frequently conducts drone surveillance flights over Somalia, but airstrikes and ground raids are relatively uncommon. The Pentagon has a large drone base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, which borders Somalia on the Horn of Africa. The U.S. military also flies surveillance drones over Somalia from a base in Ethiopia.
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Noting the vague and troubling posture of U.S. officials, journalist Glenn Greenwald tweeted:
US - again - uses drones to fire missiles in Somalia: seem to have no idea who they killed http://t.co/rZrN67ZC3A
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 2, 2014
Last year, U.S. Special Force launched a raid to capture a high-level al-Shabaab commander but failed. As many critics have warned, the ongoing U.S. War on Terror, increasingly focused on Islamic militants in both east and west Africa, reveals the expanding and destabilizing footprint of the U.S. military on the contintent.
As part of its strategy, the U.S. has joined forces with France in establishment of a second airbase in Niger. As the Washington Post's Craig Whitlock reported on Monday, the base has now cleared final hurdles and is nearly up and running:
The Pentagon is preparing to open a drone base in one of the remotest places on Earth: an ancient caravan crossroads in the middle of the Sahara.
After months of negotiations, the government of Niger, a landlocked West African nation, has authorized the U.S. military to fly unarmed drones from the mud-walled desert city of Agadez, according to Nigerien and U.S. officials.
The previously undisclosed decision gives the Pentagon another surveillance hub — its second in Niger and third in the region — to track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized U.S. strategy to tackle counterterrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent.