US Drone Strike Killed Terrorist Commander Responsible For American Deaths

Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images)

Daily Caller News Foundation logo
Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
Font Size:

A U.S. drone strike in Somalia on Dec. 17 killed a senior terrorist leader who masterminded a plot that resulted in the deaths of three Americans in 2020, a Somali official said Friday.

Maalim Ayman, head of the al-Shabab militant group’s Jaysh Ayman unit, backed terrorist attacks across Kenya and Somalia including the one on a U.S. military base in Kenya that killed two U.S. contractors and an army specialist, according to The Washington Post. Somali Information Minister Daud Aweis said the country’s military determined Ayman was the one casualty of the Dec. 17 strike on Jaysh Ayman’s stronghold in Jilib and that the operation was conducted in partnership between the U.S. and partner forces.

“Maalim Ayman, a senior leader of Al Shabab, was confirmed to have been killed in a joint operation by the Somali National Army with assistance from U.S. forces on December 17th. Ayman was accountable for planning multiple lethal terrorist attacks in Somalia and nearby countries,” Aweis said in a social media statement. (RELATED: House Rejects Matt Gaetz’s Resolution To Remove Troops From Somalia)

“He was a target for a very long time,” Aweis told the Post. He declined to comment on how the military confirmed Ayman’s death or provide details about planning that went into the operation beyond “intelligence gathering done in collaboration with our partners.”

U.S. Africa Command reported the Dec. 17 strike in a press release, but did not specify targets..

“The command’s initial assessment is that one al-Shabaab militant was killed in the strike and that there were no civilian casualties,” AFRICOM said in a statement.

“U.S. Africa Command will continue to assess the results of the operation and will provide additional information as appropriate. Specific details about the units involved and assets used will not be released in order to ensure operational security,” the statement read.

AFRICOM said it still had not assessed the target of the strike in comment to the Post on Friday.

The U.S. had placed a $10 million bounty on Ayman’s head after the Jan. 5, 2020, attack, which also destroyed six U.S. aircraft and injured two more service members, under the Rewards for Justice program, according to the Post. The U.S. military operating out of the base in Kenya conducted surveillance flights into Somalia and provided counterterrorism training to regional partner militaries.

Ayman’s branch of the al-Shabab militant group operated primarily in Kenya and carried out several deadly attacks on churches, universities, police stations and towns, according to the Post. A 2015 attack on Garissa University killed nearly 150 people, mostly students.

Al-Shabaab, which splintered from a notorious al-Qaeda-backed group in the early 2000’s, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, has recaptured scores of communities, brutalized Mogadishu and triggered a resurgence of joint counterstrikes by the U.S. military and Somali National Army (SNA), the Post reported.

All content created by the Daily Caller News Foundation, an independent and nonpartisan newswire service, is available without charge to any legitimate news publisher that can provide a large audience. All republished articles must include our logo, our reporter’s byline and their DCNF affiliation. For any questions about our guidelines or partnering with us, please contact