U.S. kills Al Qaeda-linked militant, but elsewhere terrorism grows
News of an airstrike on Aden Hashi Ayro came on the heels of the State Department's annual report on terrorism, which concluded that Al Qaeda was rebuilding in Pakistan.
Istanbul, Turkey; and Nairobi, Kenya
The US hopes its killing of a top Somali militant Thursday will set back an Islamist insurgency that has been gaining ground against Somalia's weak government and its Ethiopian allies.Skip to next paragraph
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US officers say the predawn missile strike in Dhusamareb, 300 miles north of Mogadishu, was launched against a "known Al Qaeda target and militia leader in Somalia" who had trained and fought in Afghanistan with Al Qaeda.
News of Aden Hashi Ayro's death comes on the heels of a US global survey that concluded Al Qaeda has been rebuilding its networks from havens in Pakistan, where the number of attacks more than doubled in 2007.
Released Wednesday, the State Department's annual terrorism report attributed 22,685 fatalities to "incidents of terrorism worldwide" last year, an increase of 8 percent over the previous year, while noting that nearly two-thirds of those lost their lives in Iraq.
Al Qaeda and like-minded militants remain "the greatest terrorist threat to the United States and its partners," the report said, despite a nearly seven-year war targeting the group.
Al Qaeda "has reconstituted some of its pre-9/11 operational capabilities," the report said, by exploiting havens in remote tribal areas of Pakistan, replacing key lost operatives, and reestablishing "some central control" under Osama bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri.
In particular, the report said, the vacuum in Pakistan has provided Al Qaeda's leadership "greater mobility and ability to conduct training and operational planning, particularly that targeting Western Europe and the United States."
That result stems from neglecting to pursue Al Qaeda after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001. “It was a big mistake by the United States to divert attention and resources away to Iraq in terms of the War on Terrorism,” says Magnus Ranstorp, of the Center for Asymmetric Threat Studies at the Swedish National Defense College in Stockholm.
“The best advice for the incoming [US] administration would be to reenergize support for the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan [with] both hard and soft power,” says Mr. Ranstorp. “Otherwise we are going to have more terror attacks against Europe [and] the US.”
The US report notes that Mr.Zawahiri in January 2007 "urged all mujahedin ... to extend support toSomali Muslims in a holy war" against US-backed Ethiopian unitsoccupying Somalia. In March, the US designated the military wing ofSomalia's Islamists, Shabab, a terrorist group because of its allegedlinks to Al Qaeda, although few local analysts believe there is anyreal, ongoing communication.
US special forces have beenoperating around Somalia's borders; Mr. Ayro survived an airstrike lastyear. Indeed, Thursday's airstrike was the fifth by the US since the2006 collapse of the short-lived Union of Islamic Courts (UIC)government. David Shinn, former US ambassador to Ethiopia, says itappeared to be the first to take out a key target, though he questionedits impact.