U.S. Airstrike Kills Top Qaeda Agent in Somalia

We have killed the head of Shebab, the top al Qaeda militia in Somalia.

Aden Hashi Ayro, one of Al Qaeda’s top agents in East Africa and the leader of the Islamist comeback in Somalia, was killed Thursday morning by an American airstrike, according to American and Somali officials.

Mr. Ayro was one of the most feared and notorious figures in Somalia, a short, wispy man believed to be in his 30s who had gone from lowly car washer to top terrorist suspect blamed for a string of atrocities, including ripping up an Italian graveyard, killing a female BBC journalist and planning suicide attacks all across Somalia. He was a military commander for the Shebab, an Islamist militia which the American government recently classified as a terrorist group.

Somalia officials said his death could be a key turning point in defeating the Islamists, who have seized several towns in recent weeks, and in bringing peace to the country. “This will definitely weaken the Shebab,” said Mohamed Aden, consul for Somalia’s embassy in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, who confirmed the developments. “This will help with reconciliation. You can’t imagine how many Somalis are saying, ‘Yes, this is the one.’ The reaction is so good.”

Good news. Somehow, al Qaeda continues replacing their fallen leaders. Presumably, though, there’s some drop-off in quality, at least in the short term, as this happens. As yesterday’s State Department report makes clear, this hasn’t seemed to hamper their ability to conduct minor operations. Whether these continued decapitation strikes are impacting planning for major operations — or the lull is mere coincidence — is hard to say.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Bithead says:

    Quick, somenoe find Rose Royce. Never know who you’re going to find, workin’ at the Car Wash.

    Whether these continued decapitation strikes are impacting planning for major operations — or the lull is mere coincidence — is hard to say.

    My guess is if they’re planning anything, it’s going to be just prior to the election. they may just be keeping their powder dry until then. Of course that would suggest that whatever they come up with at that point is a decent guage of what they’re capable of doing, which seems an important metric.

  2. SwEeT! Note too the NYT claims AQ’s allure is fading as tribes didn’t want to get hooked up with shadiness.

    Does this mean AQ’s influ is failing?

  3. C.Wagener says:


    AQ lost Al Jeezera about a year ago. Now there losing the NY Times. Yeah, their pretty much screwed.

  4. glasnost says:

    Of all conceivable victories we could achieve in the War on Terror:

    After 18 months, we have eventually plunked one self-created Somalian Hitlist figure who wasn’t even a blip on a screen two years ago:

    At the cost of driving a recovering nation into massive human displacement, famine, and civil war. Killing, oh, tens of thousands, raping and torturing indiscriminately, and sabotaging an entire nation.

    That’s what our Ethiopian ‘allies’ have done under our green light and willing wink-and-nod.

    It’s the Salvador Allende overthrow times ten, and but even more wildly asymettric, and even less effective, because we sure as heck don’t get a better CT situation of it.

    I’ll never understand why we needed to send the Ethiopians in and destroy the whole country simply to whack this guy.

    But nothing associated with Somalia should be considered a victory.

  5. glasnost says:

    Does this mean AQ’s influ is failing?

    It means people don’t want Tomahawk missiles shoved up their behinds. It means we’re successfully making the whole country afraid of kinetic operations. Which can be construed as good, by some people. But it’s not like Al Qaeda had any support in Somalia *before* we invaded. Or like any operations or terrorist attacks had ever been launched from there. We torched the place because some guys knew some guys.