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Vol. 75/No. 26      July 18, 2011

Washington extends drone
assassinations to Somalia
(front page)
Washington has expanded assassinations by aerial drones to Somalia, in addition to those it has carried out in at least five other countries—Pakistan, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Iraq.

The June 23 airstrike in Somalia was aimed at two leaders of the Mujahideen Youth Movement, commonly referred to as al-Shabab (the youth). The Islamist group controls large parts of Somalia’s southern and central regions and portions of the capital, Mogadishu.

An unnamed U.S. military official told the Washington Post that those targeted had “direct ties” with New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen living in southern Yemen, whom President Barack Obama has openly declared is a target for assassination. Washington failed to kill al-Awlaki in a drone missile strike in Yemen May 5.

Immediately after the Somalia strike, U.S. military forces landed in Kismayo on the country’s southern coast to pick up the dead and injured. Residents reported helicopters hovering overhead that night.

According to the Post, a U.S. official claimed two of those killed in the airstrike in Somalia “were looking to conduct attacks in Europe.”

Washington has not stationed forces in Somalia since 18 U.S. troops were killed in the highly publicized “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993 when U.S. forces were occupying the country.  
Drone strikes rise in Pakistan
As of June 30, 213 drone strikes in Pakistan have reportedly been carried out under Obama. Some 46 drone strikes were launched between 2004 and early January 2009 under former president George W. Bush.

While Obama recently announced the withdrawal of 33,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by September 2012, the course of the White House and Pentagon is to continue expanding hunter-killer operations and drone assassinations.

As of June 28, Washington had launched 42 drone attacks in Libya since its April announcement that it would end airstrikes there.

The Pentagon is providing a $45 million package of military equipment to Uganda and Burundi—two African Union countries with about 9,000 troops patrolling Somalia. This includes four shoulder-launched unarmed Raven drones, surveillance systems, and “trainers.”

At the end of June, the Obama administration released its first “National Strategy for Counterterrorism.” It calls for expanding special operations and drone strikes, in particular against Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Shabab in Somalia.

“Our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure,” stated John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, in a speech June 29 elaborating on the document.

“We increased the size of our Special Forces, sped up the deployment of unique assets” (e.g. drones) and “ensured that our military and intelligence professionals are working more closely than ever before,” he said.  
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