Street FIGHT:Conflict
Enter the Drones
An In-Depth Look at Drones, Somali Reactions, and How the War May Change
Predator Drone
General Automics Aeronautical
Predator Drone

Somalia Report was the first news source to report on the US drone attacks against al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda targets from the ground last month. Other news sources quickly picked up the news, and along with official confirmation we now know that the drone war has officially come to Somalia. Drones have been used in Somalia to observe al Qaeda and al Shabaab as well as pirates but lethal strikes have not been officially reported. In October of 2009 al Shabaab insisted they had shot down a drone, causing it to crash into the sea. Not coincidently in November of that same year the U.S. officially announced the long range Reaper would be based in the Seychelles to track pirates. They continue to push it into the media as a benign observation program but downplay the anti terrorism aspect.

The most widespread and controversial use of armed drones has been in Pakistan, where US- guided UAVs have killed over 2,500 people. These attacks are documented by local journalists and the civilian casualties are mentioned but often viewed as necessary to reduce higher casualties (both enemy and friendly) caused by similar operations conducted by ground forces. The Brookings Institution estimates there may be a ratio of ten civilians killed for every targeted person in Pakistan. Bill Roggio keeps an excellent tally and breakdown of drone strikes in Pakistan showing civilian casualties at 138 civilians killed to 2018 targets or around 6%. When compared to the civilian deaths caused by terrorist attacks, direct action, air strikes or IEDs, finding a workable "targeted to civilian casualty" ratio almost becomes a moot point. Terrorists have referred to suicide bombers as their "smart bombs" the human equivalent of a drone or JDAM.

US military sources have downplayed these civilian deaths as being family members of terrorists - as if they were considered equally guilty by marriage or genetics much like terrorist groups describe civilans as justified targets by virtue of association. As a method of killing in remote hostile regions, drones are inexpensive, relatively risk-free (except to the spies on the ground) and are low risk weapons in the area of collateral damage. To help readers understand the phenomenon, Somalia Report has talked to people inside the program on condition of anonymity and will continue to provide coverage and insight on this controversial military tactic.

Small Unarmed Drones Used for Observation
Small Unarmed Drones Used for Observation
Why are drones used to kill?

Their publicized entry into Somalia is not new, but the concept of the US killing Somalis without judge or jury and the resultant civilian deaths is disturbing. Somalia Report does not support terrorism in any form and one of the side effects of drone strikes is to “terrorize the terrorists” -something that seems to be working. The drone program has been effective in terror groups: changing movements, making them fraught with concern and deepening the suspicion of everyone around them. Bin Laden's sequestering in a house in Abbottabad and shunning electronic communications was a direct result of this effectiveness, even if his demise was driven by old-fashioned human intelligence.

Predator attacks have been against clearly defined targets with a roughly calculated number of innocent victims killed alongside the targets. As the intelligence assets are paid to provide more targets and strikes become more prevalent and violent, we predict a shift in how America is viewed by Somalis in this highly impersonal and distant way of killing.

One only has to look at Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan to see the long-term effects of targeted assassination. Success can breed failure if a power wielding deadly force is viewed as being arbitrary, disconnected and self-interested. Civilian casualties in tribal and clan areas also built a groundswell of disaffection, often igniting support for terrorist groups rather than suppressing them.

The use of Predators in Somalia has been confined to high value targets, specifically men involved in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya, Tanzania (and a failed attempt in Uganda). High on the list had been three men: Abu Taha al-Sudani, backer of the 1998 US embassy bombings and a Hezbollah-trained explosives expert; Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the man who first linked al-Qaeda with al-Shabaab; and Comoron-born Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. The latter pair were involved in the embassy bombings, the deadly car bombing attack on Israelis at the Paradise hotel in Mombasa and an attempted surface-to-air shoot down of an Israel-bound 757 in 2002 taking off from Moi airport in the same Kenyan coastal town.

Al-Qaeda, based in the Ras Kamboni to Mogadishu area, draw on support from Kenya-based operatives and the vast refugee camps that surround the Somali capital. This area has been effectively under the control of militants since the Ethiopian invasion fell apart. Although the US maintains an intelligence and special forces training presence in the region, there is no interest in deploying ground troops. AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping force, along with Kenya and Ethiopia, are the paid proxy troops used to project US interests in the region.

Camp Lemonnier 2011
Google Earth
Camp Lemonnier 2011

Camp Lemonnier Two years ago
Google Earth
Camp Lemonnier Two years ago

The two other areas that support the hunt for terrorists are Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti and the naval presence offshore. When we first reported on the attacks in June, there was much confusion. Somalis are used to seeing jets fly over, and even helicopters come in and out of, Mogadishu. It was the lack of that aerial activity that tipped us off that the attack that occurred on June 23 in the evening in Khandal, 10 kms south of Kismayo, was a Predator attack. A second attack occurred in the city of Kismayo near the airport. This attack occurred shortly after the killing of a major al-Qaeda leader and his Kenyan counterpart on June 11 in Mogadishu, and the capture of sensitive information.

In an unusual “boots on the ground” - albeit fleeting - presence, US special operations troops landed in helicopters to remove remains and assets for confirmation of identity and further exploitation.

The operation was the first American attack there since 2009, when helicopter-borne commandos killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. The American intelligence and military command has been reticent to conduct operations due to a lack of ground intelligence in the region, lack of robust search and rescue and potential for casualties. Search and rescue can be provided by naval forces, but typically comes out of Djibouti or Nairobi.

Currently, the US government operates small intelligence collection and training posts in Bosaso, Mogadishu and Hargeisa and works with the local governments. The waters offshore Somalia are home to some of the world’s largest battle ships and aircraft carriers, and electronic, signals and geographic intelligence collection assets, but little of this information is shared or even used due to the different mandates of the Task Forces, countries, and law enforcement agencies involved.

Somali reaction

The use of drones has so far proven divisive in Somalia, with some for and some against. The drone program is relatively new for Somali's and there have yet to be significant civilian casualties. Somalia Report found most of the people we interviewed in Mogadishu to be favorable to the concept. Keeping in mind this is a city in which thousands have been killed by indiscriminate shelling and gunfire from both AMISOM and al-Shabaab forces.

“We welcome the US operations because we think they will break al-Shabaab’s backbone,” Somali Defense Minister Abdihakim Haji Mohamud Fiqi told reporters in Mogadishu last month.

Some members of the Somali parliament have also expressed their support for the operations.

Lawmaker Abdinasir Garane Adan told Somalia Report that he believes these operations are acceptable if the Somali government is informed beforehand. “There is the question of sovereignty, the government should be informed before any action is taken,” he said. Yet others are concerned over possible civilian casualties.

“There is no need for drone attacks in Somalia, because al-Shabaab can be defeated with only troops on the ground,” lawmaker Mohamed Hussein Afarale told Somalia Report, “There are no hideouts and mountains like Afghanistan. Surgical operations targeting senior known terrorist leaders, like the one that killed Saleh Nabhan are acceptable.”

Sheikh Omar Sheikh Abdulkadir Adan, a senior leader of the pro-government Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa militia, welcomed the use of drones, saying anyone who kills al-Shabaab – be they “human or devil” – should be applauded.

Many ordinary Somalis said they were happy if foreign fighters were being killed, but significant numbers are worried that non-combatants will suffer should strikes continue.

“It is my country that is being interfered and it is my people who are being killed. I cannot be happy with that,” said Hussein Ali, a bus driver who lives in Mogadishu. “This is good for nothing. It will not liberate our country,” said Mohamed Ali, a former soldier. “It will only kill people at funerals and weddings, like Afghanistan.”

Human rights groups have also expressed concern. Ali Yasin, executive director of Focus Community Concern and Advocacy, says human casualties are inevitable.

“The drone attacks are guided by technology and they will not, of course, always hit the targeted people alone. Civilians are bound to die or get injured,” he said. “These sorts of attacks must be avoided.” While al-Shabaab has been moving its leaders around as a result of the strikes, one of their commanders, who spoke to Somalia Report on condition of anonymity, said that drones would not change anything and accused the US of cowardice.

“We are ready to kill them with our flying bones (suicide attacks)," he said. "Why don’t they land and sacrifice lives if they are ready to die for their cause?”

What Are Drones?

Predator Drone PIlot and Signals Officer in Balad Iraq
Predator Drone PIlot and Signals Officer in Balad Iraq

Drones are aircraft that are remotely piloted. They are much like radio-controlled aircraft, but with exponentially multiplied technology, cost and sophisticated communications systems. The first drone attack was in August 26, 1859 when the Austrians attacked Venice with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives. The Japanese used a similar method to attack the west coast of the US during World War II.

In recent history, drones became the answer to the collateral damage caused by the death, injury or capture of pilots by the enemy for propaganda purposes. The US began to officially fly drones in 1959. The 1962 capture of U2 pilot Francis Gary Powers over Russia accelerated the program and the Vietnam-era POWs and the general cost of losing a well-trained pilot created a demand for unmanned aircraft in reconnaissance and combat. Guided missiles, smart bombs and even satellite imagery cannot replace the skills of an experienced pilot in real-time decision making. In Vietnam, 3,435 UAV missions were flown, with 554 UAVs lost. By contrast, during the south-east Asian conflict, 5,000 U.S. airmen had been killed and over 1,000 more were captured or missing in action.

In addition to saving the lives of air crew and avoiding demoralizing publicity for the enemy, the drone’s utility is somewhere between a guided missile and an observation blimp, providing a combination of speed, stability and time aloft to give high ground to military and intelligence units. They can be as small as a tiny helo or as large as a 747 if needed. Drones are not necessarily cheaper. An F-15 can cost $30 million, while a Predator has a sticker price of only $5 million ($10.5 million for a Reaper). But drones require a massive ground-, air- and space-based network, as well as a remote pilot, to function. Both contractors and the military make the drone program work and the only limited factor is the availability of trained pilots. The Air Force JSTAR communications systems allows drones to take off, operate and land anywhere there is a ground link using the shared ground command network originally designed to support the U2 program.

Drones are mostly observation aircraft, locally flown by the military and operated much like the RQ2, a 14-foot long drone that has been in use since 1988. Drones like the RQ2 are launched from a catapult off of ships or towed trailers. It provides overview for gunnery observation and "eyes on target" when identifying enemy location. There are also a host of smaller observation drones that cannot carry weapons and can literally be launched by throwing into the air like a glider and controlled by common radio frequency controls.

But the large lethal Predator drones are in a class by themselves. The mainstay of the Somalia program is the MQ series made in San Diego by General Atomics, developed in the mid 90’s.

The MQ1 Predator is a turboprop with a wingspan of 55 feet. First designed in 1996, the aircraft can be remotely piloted from the deserts of Nevada, crew loaded in Djibouti and fire two laser-guided Hellfire missiles 400 miles away. It can fly for up to 454 miles, at speed of up to 135mph, and at altitudes of up to 25,000ft. Depending on where it is launched and payload, the smallest of the Predator family can stay aloft for half a day. Officially the manufacturer says there are around 250 MQ1 Predators in operation worldwide but in reality there are over 400. The biggest limitations are range and payload due to its original mission as a light, cheap observation platform.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
MQ 9 Reaper or Avenger

The MQ9 Reaper is a bigger/better modification of the Predator concept that first went into active service in 2009. Although official sources insist the name Reaper is really a nickname for "Remotely Piloted Vehicles/Aircraft or RPV/RPA, the Reaper’s ghoulish nickname reflects its role as a vehicle designed for destruction and assassinations. The manufacturer’s official name is Avenger which also reflects the real goal of these lethal aircraft.

In Somalia, the Reaper's 3,682 mile range and seven hardpoints with 3000 lb external payload make it the ideal platform for targeting al-Qaeda in Mogadishu and even pirates in the Indian Ocean (a concept being considered by the U.S. military). The Reaper can carry fourteen AGM-114 Hellfires or a combination of four missiles and two 500lb GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided smart bombs. For harder targets, the 500 lb (230 kg) GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM) can also be loaded.

The Predator C will be able to launch from carriers and have even more power and range. To be fair, both MQ models are in current use as civilian, non-lethal platforms for NASA and US Homeland Security. They are even being used in the drug war in Mexico.

RQ-45A Global Hawk
RQ-45A Global Hawk
There are also purely high-end observation drones like the Global Hawk has a wingspan of 116 feet. Designed as a reconnaissance aircraft, it can fly for a day and a half, reach speeds of 400mph and stay aloft at 60,000 feet. This newer vehicle is designed to track convoys or moving targets over long periods of time.

Based on the direction in development drones are getting larger, traveling further, carrying more munitions and fuel and covering more territory. There is much talk about tiny drones but the really dollars are being spent on getting smart munitions into denied territory. Exactly where terrorist groups operate and train in. Conversely the targets have learned to move indoors, stop using cel phones and mix among the population. This kind of pressure has even made the al Shabaab spokesperson keep his phone off and adopt angry when called.

Drones cannot work in a vacuum, they also require informants on the ground to provide direction and identification. There are also dozens of manned observation, SIGINT, ELINT and specialty aircraft available along with far flung "fusion cels" that work in conjunction with drones to provide intelligence to the mission commander.

How Do Drones Work?

Currently the war on terrorism in the Horn of Africa is operated out of Nairobi and Djibouti with a complex network of support nodes across the world. A UAV may be piloted from Nellis Air Force Base (AFB) in Nevada, USA, coordinate with an intelligence cell in Bagram, Afghanistan, tap into data stored in Nairobi, coordinate with a carrier launched ELINT platform, be monitored in Washington and be hunting a target in Kismayo. All with coordinating and support elements from aircraft, ships, fusion centers and even portable viewing screens used by Special Operations teams providing “eyes on” confirmation of the target.

Drones are unique in that they lower risk and cost. Deploying a manned aircraft requires a “long tail”, the support network that recruits, trains, deploys, feeds, protects, repairs, schedules, rescues and supports aviation and intelligence-gathering activities. The predators were initially used to gather intelligence, providing an “eye in the sky” to identify and follow suspects with the need for dangerous insertion of teams. The weaponizing of drones began in the CIA, who had for years modified aircraft like Pilateus Porters and Cessnas to carry weapons in low-intensity conflicts. The lethality of drones and their operation in foreign countries and against foreign citizens originally required presidential findings to allow assassination, but now the killing of targets has simply become a tactical tool against what the US considers to be combatants.

Somalia is just one of many countries where lethal drones are used. Currently the media reports that drones fly over Yemen, Libya, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Somalia. In reality, the kill chain for terrorists, whether it be to support proxy armies or pass on real-time intelligence to foreign intelligence operations, include drones in dozens of regions around the world. Currently the drone program in Somalia is operated by Americans to kill al-Qaeda members. That may soon change as official press releases insist that members of al Shabaab are working more closely with al Qaeda in Yemen. A July 7th Reuters story now insists that pirates are providing financial support to al Shabaab which further increases potential targets. This announcement came a year after the al Shabaab July 11th attack in Kampala that killed 74 people in Uganda.

The publicly announced "covert" CIA drone program in Yemen was supposed to start this summer but internal chaos has stalled that plan. The U.S. Navy will be officially testing and using armed drones in the Indian Ocean sometime later this year. The more the United States can link Al Shabaab members by cel, financial or personal communications to known al Qaeda members in Yemen the more targets that are created for drone strikes. This also means that the drone program and new targets will part of a coordinated regional activity. So more drones, more targets, more drone users and less political risk all spell expansion for the use of lethal drone strikes in and around the Horn of Africa.

Geographers will note that the MQ 1's range is only 675 miles but the MQ 9's range of 1150 to 3600 miles and 14 to 28 hours aloft (depending on payload) makes it ideal for the Horn of Africa. The MQ9's cruising speed of 230mph means it can be on a target in three hours, stay on station for eight hours and make the return trip.

The distance from Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti to Mogadishu is 706 miles or 1412 round trip, Mahe in the Seychelles is 841 miles or 1682 round trip, Nairobi is 633 miles or 1266, 572 miles from Dire Dawa and 576 from Mombassa. All of these airfields, air and carrier-launched aircraft, cruise missiles, refueled fighter bombers, shipboard helos and the soon to be deployed Predator C drone designed for aircraft carriers like the USS Enterprise put Al Qaeda and Al Shabaab directly in reach of U.S. revenge.

Despite the recent deadly modifications first created by the CIA, unmanned or remotely piloted aircraft are everywhere and ubiquitous. They can be military, CIA or civilian satellites gathering visual or electronic data, suitcase sized radio-controlled aircraft, blimps used to monitor neighborhoods or even tracking chips used to follow people. AMISOM is scheduled to receive smaller forward observation UAVs as part of a US program. Even though the UAVs are too small to be armed, they can also be used to target al-Shabaab positions or movements with lethal effect.

The current tactic for "Fix, Find and Finish" approach began in Bosnia when Navy SEALs used triangulation of mobile phone towers to provide fairly exact location of wanted war criminals via their cel phone communications. All that is needed is a good number and permissible access to the mobile phone system. This expanded after 9/11 to include building networks of al-Qaeda and their supporters along with their financial backers. What was missing was the ability to visually locate a suspect without inserting teams or hiring ground assets. The UAV was ideal.

Mobile phone communications are monitored to find exact locations of people, drones are then positioned to provide “deadly persistence” as they hover in shifts waiting for the emergence of the suspect. If the suspect is confirmed as the target, lethal force is used sometimes with ground crews dropped in quickly by helicopter to exploit any intelligence from the scene.

When the CIA used armed Predators in Afghanistan, and later Yemen, the resounding lack of outcry (versus use of night raids or air strikes) pushed the UAV program into high gear. The lack of outcry, surgical nature and chilling effect of the attack encourages the further exploitation of armed drones. Commanders of al-Qaeda are considered combatants and can be killed where found. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) and the CIA’s global mandate do not require coordination or permission from the host country for targeted killing.

How Does The Drone Program Work In Somalia?

Drone Firing Hellfire Missile
Drone Firing Hellfire Missile
The drones used in Somalia can be launched from runways, aircraft carriers and even temporary air fields. They are operated by a pilot, a sensor operator and a mission commander. Depending on the mission, intelligence elements may also have a direct feed. The decision to fire a weapon is made by a mission commander, but recently the conversion of the old U2 project into the drone program has added 4000 players and five far-flung operational nodes leading to overlap and often confusion as people from Korea to Central California get involved. Recently two Marines were killed by a Predator strike just outside Kabul, Afghanistan. Review of the tape later clearly showed them to be friendlies, according to a source who works inside the program.

Right now Camp Lemonnier is the home of Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) where drones are serviced and launched. It was established in the spring of 2001 as part of the effort to track terrorists and provide a forward-operating base for special operations troops. There are about 1,200 contractors in addition to the 3,000 troops. There is an intelligence gathering section that does not publish its manpower or equipment. The mix of multinational special operations troops, proximity to Yemen, Somalia and other terrorist bases have resulted in a number of “wins” for this rarely visited hot spot.

In 2008, AFRICOM took over command, but JSOC elements remain under the command of SOCOM and the primary use of the facility is to launch rapid attacks on al-Qaeda members in East Africa, the Gulf of Aden region. They can coordinate with fusion centers, air and sea assets to quickly pull together a mission that often involves French air assets and US helicopters.

It is important to remember that the US military operates both lethal and non-lethal drones in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. The CIA operates drones in regions where terrorist or drug-related activity takes place. The Navy also operates drones to track pirates and money movement. In some places, like the US and Mexico, drones are used in a multidimensional capability to track the border, smuggling, drug cartels and criminal activity.

Short history of the drone war

The drones first "public" appearance was in 2004 and again in the fall of 2009, when the MQ9 Reapers were deployed to the region to gather intelligence on pirates. They were soon flying over the Indian Ocean and coast of Somalia to look for pirate ships. In this observational role they also work alongside more traditional P3 Orion aircraft based out of Djibouti. The drones were based temporarily out of Mahé in the Seychelles at the main airport. This was an experiment unrelated to the 13 year hunt for al Qaeda since the Embassy bombings and is now a de facto U.S. drone base. The drone and counter terrorism program works out of Kenya, Yemen and Djibouti.

Timeline: Use of drones in warfare, and build up to Somalia use

The use of drones and the targeting of al-Qaeda in Somalia must be reviewed against the strategy and developments in the global "War on Terror". The U.S. has an extraordinary choice of weapons at its disposal and an equally staggering list of government agencies. The message sent by armed drones is simple. Surgical lethality with risk aversion both in human terms and politically. The minimal footprint and stand off strategy clearly signals that the United States has little to no interest in adding Somalia to the current list of conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Iraq.

December 9, 1992 – US Marines land in Somalia, the first of 35,000 international soldiers sent in to stabilize and help Somalia after a civil war killed 300,000 Somalis. President Bill Clinton said at the time, “I respect and appreciate President Bush's desire to see the ground forces out of there by sometime in mid-January, and it may work out that that can be done. But the issue is whether the United States will have to keep these ground forces there longer than a few weeks. I think that depends on how long it takes to accomplish the mission."

March 26, 1994 – The last US soldier leaves Somalia and the legacy of “Black Hawk Down” becomes a thematic reason for America not putting troops on the ground in the country, and a propaganda victory for US opponents. The death of 18 Americans is blamed on Clinton’s refusal to deploy proper air assets, like the AC 130 gunship specifically designed to protect special operations troops under fire

2000 - In the spring of 2000, the CIA group humorously called "The Manson Family” for its number of female analysts, led by Mike Scheurer, pushes for modifications to the Predator to find and kill Bin Laden, specifically to find him while at Tarnak Farms, near Jalalabad. Cofer Black is a proponent, but George Tenet sees potential problems. On September 4, 2001, just before the 9/11 attacks, Tenet warns, "They should do so with their eyes wide open, fully aware of the potential fallout if there were a controversial or mistaken strike." Armed versions of the Predator are shipped to Uzbekistan's K2 airfield by September 16, 2011, but Uzbekistan initially does not allow overflights by armed aircraft. Finally Uzbekistan authorizes lethally armed flights on October 7, and the first armed Predator mission is launched that day.

September 12, 2001 – After the US is attacked by Saudis and Yemenis, trained in the US, coordinated from Afghanistan and funded from the Gulf Region, and loathe to deploy ground troops in Pakistan, the US opts to use special operations, Air Force forward controllers, proxy armies, drones and airpower to hunt al-Qaeda. Little to no intelligence exists inside Afghanistan and all covert operations have previously been launched from Pakistan.

November 14, 2001 - The first high-level target is killed by an unmanned drone. Egyptian Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda's military commander, is killed by an MQ-1 Predator near Kabul.

November 4, 2002 - The first direct US strike against the al-Qaeda network outside Afghanistan is carried out by a CIA predator. Hellfire missiles are used to kill six men suspected of being involved in the bombing of the USS Cole. Killed are Abu Ali Al Harethi, the planner of the attack, and Kamal Derwish, an American citizen associated with al-Qaeda.

2004 – The US begins the Shamsi-based Predator and Reaper program against Pakistan-based militants and al-Qaeda members. To date, over 2,500 have been killed.

2006 – The US military creates the “Long War” strategy, encouraging global attacks on terrorists. The quadrennial military review highlights Camp Lemonnier as "a prime example of distributed operations and economy of force". The report predicts the growth in terrorist activity and calls for expanded use of drones to eliminate targets without the need for ground troops.

August 31, 2007 - U.S. officially announced the deployment of the MQ 9 "Reaper" aka Predator B. A larger, longer range drone for use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

January 7, 2007 - Ethiopia provides intelligence that al-Qaeda suspects including Tariq Abdullah and Aden Hashi Eyrow are in a convoy en route to Ras Kamboni, a embarkation point in the very southern part of Somalia . The large convoy of vehicles was spotted by an unarmed Predator but a gunship was brought in to destroy the vehicles. Eyrow was wounded and Abdullah was not in the convoy

January 23, 2007 – Another attack occurs just inside the Kenya/Somalia border on an al-Qaeda resupply convoy near Waldena. During follow up operations against convoys, US Special Operations forces learn they have killed Tariq Abdullah.

June 1, 2007 - A US Warship attacks al-Qaeda members, killing eight. They had disembarked from boats and sought refuge in caves along the ocean front.

May 1, 2008 - US aircraft or a ship offshore launch a cruise missile attack against Aden Hashi Eyrow and Sheikh Muhyadin Omar, who are sleeping in a house in the Dhusamareb region in central Somalia. Eleven people are killed, two of them the targeted AS leaders, five of them civilians. Four Somalis are injured.

September 15, 2009 - A raid is launched inside Mogadishu to kill Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the then leader of al-Qaeda in Somalia. The Kenyan was wanted for the attack on the 2002 Mombasa Paradise hotel and attempted shoot down of Arkia Israel Airlines Boeing 757 plane taking off from Mombasa’s Moi International Airport

September 19, 2009 - Al Shabaab claims they have shot down an American drone that later crashes in the ocean of Kismayo. The U.S. Navy insists that all its drones have been recovered.

October 19, 2009 - The U.S. Navy insists that MQ 9 Reapers will be flown from Mahé to monitor pirate activity

December 11, 2009 - Saleh al Somali is targeted and killed in Aspangla, near the main town of Miramshah in North Waziristan. Saleh was involved in the 1993 Black Hawk Down episode and was considered to be al-Qaeda’s operations planner and recruiter of Somalis living overseas.

March 30, 2010 -The U.S. publicly announces that there are no U.S. advisors in Somalia . "This is not an American conflict," said Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson. "It will be up to the Somalis to ultimately resolve this conflict. The U.S., along with others in the international community, can contribute in a supporting role, which we do and acknowledge, but not to become directly engaged in any of the conflict on the ground there."

July 11, 2010 - Al Shabaab detonates two bombs that kills 74 Ugandans watching the World Cup at the Kyadondo Rugby Club and the Ethiopian Village Restaurant in Kampala.. In a public statement al Shabaab said, "We wage war against the 6,000 collaborators; they have received their response." referring to the Ugandan soldiers hired by AMISOM to protect the TFG.

June 23, 2011 - US drones strike al-Shabaab camps in Kismayo, Somalia killing al Shabaab commander Ibrahim Hajj Jamaal "Afghani" and wounding Bilal El Berjawi

June 29, 2011 - US strike al-Shabaab targets in Lower Juba, Somalia but questions remain over whether these were drones or helicopters.

June 15, 2011 - Yemen admits there has been one drone strike a day in June Officially there is no war in Yemen.

June 29 2011 - Drones fire on al-Shabaab leaders, wounding one. The men were considered to have direct links and recent communications to Anwar al-Awlaqi about attacks on US assets.

July 7, 2011 - Reuters provides no sourcing but specific amounts paid on specific ship ransoms that were allegedly paid to al Shabaab from pirate groups. This is published a year after the bombings in Uganda.

Eye in the sky
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc.
Eye in the sky

The final elimination of the ring leaders of the embassy bombings is not the end of the drone program. The recent intelligence exploitation of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed personal effects may have created a short term burst of lethal activity but that will be overshadowed by increased deployment of drones into the region, better intelligence gathering from more drones resulting in increased strikes. There is no public list of High Value Targets, no finite estimated of terrorists and no clear bottom to America's publicly stated urge to link al Shabaab with al Qaeda in Yemen. Given the lack of public outcry over the use of lethal drones Somalia Report estimates that this recent activity signals this is the beginning of the drone war.