Al-Shabaab Claims U.S. Kills in Somalia After Obama Steps Up Secret Aid
Al-Shabaab is claiming that it killed a veteran CIA official who oversaw the agency's September 2001 plunge into Afghanistan as well as another CIA operative as U.S. officials accompanied an African Union convoy from the airport in Mogadishu.
And the claim comes as a United Nations monitor points a finger at the Obama administration for surreptitiously increasing intelligence aid in a country where the terror group's recent activity works against the narrative of Islamic terrorists being on the run.
The July 12 suicide bomb targeting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) convoy killed at least three, according to Somali police. One witness told Horn of Africa news outlet Sabahi that he saw two bodies in a burning car and another laying on the ground, with additional injured quickly whisked away by ambulance.
AMISOM, which didn't even issue a press release on the attack, though it did for a July 17 IED attack in which troops and civilians were injured, said a car "attempted to hit" an armored troop transport vehicle but no soldiers were killed in the explosion that leveled neighboring shanties. The AU did say there were "minor injuries" in other parts of the convoy.
"The convoy was escorting a group of US intelligence officials responsible for overseeing all major surveillance operations in Somalia," Al-Shabaab's media arm claimed in a tweet on July 12. The al-Qaeda affiliate initially reported eight "African Crusader" deaths and two U.S. fatalities with at least a dozen injuries, but later revised those numbers down.
The following day, Al-Shabaab claimed in a statement that one U.S. intelligence officer was killed and a higher-ranking official was injured.
"The main target of the operation, HSM intelligence department has confirmed, was Gary Schroen, director of CIA operations in East Africa and who was severely wounded in the attack," the terror group said, using the acronym for Harakat al-Shabaab al-Mujahideen. "Schroen has a long history of waging war against the Mujahideen; he worked as a field officer in Afghanistan and Pakistan before being deployed to Nairobi, Kenya, where he was in charge of coordinating and directing all CIA operations in East Africa, with a particular focus on Somalia. From their office in Mogadishu, Schroen’s unit employed dozens of operatives, conducted surveillance operations and provided intelligence to the African Crusaders."
Al-Shabaab claimed that Schroen, 71, who came out of retirement to lead the post-9/11 operation and penned the book First In: An Insider's Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in Afghanistan in 2007, "was on the radar of the Mujahideen intelligence teams ever since his deployment last year." Schroen's Facebook page lists his job as "government contractor."
They claimed Schroen's predecessor in Mogadishu was wounded in a December 2012 blast; they may have been referencing an attack on a convoy carrying Somali ministers and security officials.
"The Mujahideen have since then spared no effort to track him down during his stay in Mogadishu and travels to and from Nairobi," Al-Shabaab said.
"The Martyrdom operation took place shortly after Schroen and his entourage left the airport under heavy security, travelling in a Ugandan convoy of armored personnel carriers. The results of the operation are as follows: Four senior Ugandan officers, including the deputy commander of UPDF forces in Somalia, were killed in the attack. One of Schroen’s security staff, a US intelligence official, was also killed. Three US officials, including Schroen, and one Ugandan officer were seriously wounded."
Today, via Twitter, the Somali terror group announced "Schroen succumbed to his injuries 2 days ago, making him the most high-profile U.S. agent killed."
"Schroen’s death serves as a just retribution for thousands of Muslims who were renditioned, tortured & killed in operations that he oversaw," Al-Shabaab added.
PJM was not able to get a hold of anyone in the intelligence community this evening to confirm or deny the terror group's claim. There has been no public mention of the claim or of the attack by the administration.
Somali media have been publishing the claim of Schroen's death, but it hasn't been in U.S. media.
Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, though, became the highest-ranking Pentagon official to ever visit Uganda in a trip there today to meet with "senior government and military leaders to affirm the growing security partnership between the United States and Uganda." His schedule was clear of events over the weekend and on Monday until the trip to the other country mentioned in Al-Shabaab's claims was announced.
"This visit was an opportunity to discuss a range of regional security challenges with Ugandan partners, including addressing conflict in Somalia, the Sudans, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and ending the threat to civilians and to regional stability posed by Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA)," the Pentagon said.
"While in Uganda, Deputy Secretary Carter conducted a phone call with President Yoweri Museveni, who was traveling outside Kampala, and met with State Minister for Foreign Affairs Henry Okello, Chief of Defence Forces Edward Katumba Wamala, Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence Brigadier General Charles Bakahumura, and Chief of Staff of Ugandan Land Forces Brigadier General Leopold Kyanda. The deputy also met with U.S. personnel supporting the Ugandan military's effort to remove leaders of the LRA from the battlefield and a separate contingent of U.S. forces providing specialized counterterrorism training to Ugandan forces who will deploy as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia."
President Obama told Congress in the "consolidated" version of last month's report on U.S. activities consistent with the War Powers Resolution that "in Somalia, the U.S. military has worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa'ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab."
A June report by the U.N. Monitoring Group for Somalia and Eritrea charged that the Obama administration has expanded its secret war in Somalia in such a way that could violate the arms embargo.
"A large part of the assistance provided to the Somali security forces involved in counter-insurgency and anti-terrorism operations at the federal and regional levels has not been reported. According to multiple diplomatic and military sources, the Governments of the United States and the United Kingdom are increasingly involved in directly supporting intelligence services in 'Somaliland', 'Puntland' and Mogadishu, at times in violation of resolutions 733 (1992) and 1425 (2002)," the report states.
"From August 2012 to March 2013, the Monitoring Group identified 84 civilian flights operated to Mogadishu and 'Puntland' by the United States-based air companies Prescott Support Co. and RAM Air Services, which are connected to United States support to 'Puntland' and Mogadishu intelligence services, 54 in comparison to 65 flights counted in the same period of the previous mandate of the Monitoring Group, indicating an increase in United States support."