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Thursday, May 01, 2008

Adan Hashi Ayro Dead

NAIROBI, Kenya — 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 Somali officials. (NY Times)

(APA-Mogadishu Somalia) A United States missile hit a house in central Somalia before dawn on Thursday morning, killing nine people including a top leader of the Alshabab Islamic Movement, Aden Hashi Ayro and his brother.

Witnesses said six other people were wounded in the attack.

More (APA-News)



(NYT)
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.”

Human rights organizations have upbraided the American government for launching air strikes against terrorist suspects inside Somalia and killing civilians instead, which has happened several times in the past year. But this time the missiles seemed to find their mark.

Around 3 a.m. Thursday morning, four missiles slammed into a home in the central Somalia town of Dhusamareb, according to residents, Somali officials and a spokesman for the Shebab.
The home was being used by Mr. Ayro and his top lieutenants as a hideout, Somali officials said. More than 10 people were killed, including Mr. Ayro, Mr. Ayro’s brother and several other high-ranking Shebab commanders.

“Infidel planes bombed Dhusamareb," Shabab spokesman Mukhtar Ali Robow told Reuters. "Two of our important people, including Ayro, were killed."

Dhusamareb, a town of about 100,000 people along one of the few highways in Somalia, is a stronghold of the Ayr clan, which Mr. Ayro belongs to. In the past few weeks, residents said, Islamist fighters had moved into the town, part of their strategy to wrest back control from the Transitional Federal Government, which is officially in charge of Somalia but wields little power on the ground.

In 2006, Mr. Ayro was part of the Islamist movement that briefly ruled Somalia. That ended in December 2006 when Ethiopian troops, backed up by American intelligence and air power, ousted the Islamists.

Since then, American forces have launched several airstrikes inside Somalia, including one in January 2007 which was thought to have wounded Mr. Ayro.

American officials were not able to be reached for comment immediately on Thursday morning but the description of the attack on Dhusamareb by residents, Somali officials and the spokesman for the Shebab fit the pattern of previous airstrikes. In the past attacks, cruise missiles were often used, launched from American war ships in the Indian Ocean.

American officials have said they have been given permission by Somalia’s government to attack terrorist suspects on Somali soil. American officials have accused Mr. Ayro of protecting wanted Qaeda members, including some of the men thought to have planned the bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

Mr. Ayro’s life story is a bit sketchy. According to Somali intelligence agents, he dropped out of school at a young age to wash cars and join one of the street-gang type militias that was fighting for control of Somalia in the early 1990s after the central government collapsed.
He became friends with a leader of his clan, Hassan Dahir Aweys, who arranged for him to go to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against American forces in 2001. He then returned to Mogadishu and trained fellow fighters in explosives, according to the International Crisis Group, a think-tank that specializes in conflict.

In 2005, Mr. Ayro desecrated the graves of dozens of Italians who had been buried in Mogadishu decades ago, when Somalia was an Italian colony. Mr. Ayro was essentially disowned by his clan after that. But his militant activities only increased, and in February 2005 he was blamed for gunning down a BBC news producer outside her hotel in Mogadishu.

Mr. Ayro had recently gone to Dhusamareb with a band of his fighters to help set up a local administration. But clan elders rejected him, said Mohammed Uluso, a leader of the Ayr clan, because the elders “didn’t want to mix up their legitimate goals with something suspicious.”

That might have been part of Mr. Ayro’s undoing, because Somali officials said that people in Dhusamareb provided American forces with up-to-the-minute intelligence on Mr. Ayro’s movements.

Mr. Uluso said Mr. Ayro was small and thin and looked like “a high school student, not this big guy the Americans were after.”

Mr. Uluso said he thinks the Shebab will continue even after Mr. Ayro’s death because many young Somalis see the Shebab as a “heroic cause” in terms of standing up to the Americans. (Shebab is the Arabic word for youth.)

“The Shebab won’t just disappear,” Mr. Uluso said. “But now that the hunt for Ayro is over, at least people will get their freedom back. So many people were hurt and oppressed in the effort to get him.”

The Rest @ the New Yor Times

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