Al-Qaeda Somalia Abroad: A Threat to Israel and the U.S.

Earlier this month al-Shabaab, al-Qaeda’s dangerous Somalian proxy, threatened to attack Israel. "The Jews started to destroy parts of the holy mosque of al-Aqsa and they routinely kill our Palestinian brothers, so we are committed to defend our Palestinian brothers," an al-Shabaab commander named Mukhtar Robow Abu Mansur declared in a firebrand sermon delivered from a small village in Somalia. A local radio station broadcast the sermon and then CNN picked up the story, focusing on the fact that the African-based terror organization was “far from its normal base” in threatening Israel.

In fact, al-Shabaab is very much on the international threat radar these days. So much so that just last month the White House authorized a daring, dangerous, and successful attack against the al-Shabaab/al-Qaeda partnership in Somalia, killing an estimated nine operatives including Saleh Ali Nabhan, who was wanted by the FBI.

The raid, called Operation Celestial Balance, remains officially unconfirmed by the White House. According to eyewitnesses, it took place on September 14 and involved two attack helicopters that were deployed from a nearby Navy ship. The raid echoed the "Black Hawk Down" incident of 1993, but with entirely different results. Bill Roggio of the Long War Journal reports:

A car transporting [Saleh Ali] Nabhan and five other foreign fighters was escorted by another car carrying three Shabaab escorts; the vehicles were hit as they stopped for breakfast as they traveled to Kismayo.

According to one witness, upwards of six helicopters were involved in the raid. At least two AH-6 Little Bird special operations attack helicopters strafed the two-car convoy. Other helicopters dismounted Navy SEALs, who seized the body of Nabhan and another, and purportedly took two other wounded fighters captive. An unconfirmed report indicated that Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow, a senior Shabaab leader, was among those killed.

On October 12, 2009, a jihadi website posted Nabhan’s biography, confirming his death and calling him a “martyred commander.”

In life, Saleh Ali Nabhan’s terror goals were anything but local. He was originally placed on the FBI’s Seeking Information-War on Terrorism list for his role in the East Africa embassy bombings in 1998. In the years since, Nabhan is believed to have been involved in several international terror plots and attacks, including the 2002 Mombasa, Kenya, attacks, which specifically targeted Israeli interests there.