Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA) is a component of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) is the primary (but not sole) military component assigned to accomplish the objectives of the mission. The naval components are the multinational Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) and Combined Task Force 151 (CTF-151) which operates under the direction of the United States Fifth Fleet. Both of these organizations have been historically part of United States Central Command. In February 2007, United States President George W. Bush announced the establishment of the United States Africa Command which took over all of the area of operations of CJTF-HOA in October 2008.
CJTF-HOA consists of about 2,000 servicemen and women from the United States military and allied countries. The official area of responsibility comprises Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Seychelles and Kenya. Outside this Combined Joint Operating Area, the CJTF-HOA has operations in Mauritius, Comoros, Liberia, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. The American contribution to the operation, aside from advisers, supplies, and other forms of non-combat support, consists mainly of drone strikes targeted at Al-Shabaab. Other American combat operations include manned airstrikes, cruise missile strikes, and special forces raids.
Interception of missiles from North Korea
On 9 December 2002 the Spanish frigate Navarra intercepted the unflagged freighter So San several hundred miles southeast of Yemen at the request of the United States government. The frigate fired across So San's bow after the freighter ignored hails and attempted to evade the frigate. The freighter's crew was North Korean; 23 containers containing 15 complete Scud ballistic missiles, 15 high-explosive warheads, and 23 nitric acid (used as an oxidizer for fueling Scud missiles) containers were found on board. Yemen claimed ownership of the shipment and protested the interception and U.S. officials released the vessel after receiving assurances that the missiles would not be transferred to a third party.
Pirates are rampant along the coast of Somalia and present a hazard to all shipping there; as such, anti-piracy operations are a routine part of Operation Enduring Freedom: Horn of Africa. This is done primarily by the Combined Task Force 150, the Combined Task Force 151, Operation Atalanta, Operation Copper and in parallel to other independent anti-piracy operations conducted off the coast of Somalia by other countries such as China, India and Russia.
This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2019)
The United States Coast Guard cutter USCGC Munro, working with the British aircraft carrier HMS Invincible and destroyer HMS Nottingham in the Gulf of Aden, intercepted a hijacked vessel at around noon on 17 March. The interception was ordered after Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (COMUSNAVCENT) received telephone reports from the International Maritime Bureau's Piracy Reporting Center in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, concerning the hijacking of the Thai-flagged fishing boat Sirichai Nava 12 by three Somalis on the evening of 16 March, as well as a fax indicating that the hijackers demanded U.S. $800,000 in ransom for the vessel's crew.
Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 tasked Invincible, Nottingham and Munro to investigate the situation. A Visit, Board, Search and Seizure (VBSS) team from Munro boarded Sirichai Nava, while a boarding team from Nottingham went on to a second fishing vessel, Ekhwat Patana, which was with the Thai vessel. Munro's boarding team detained the Somalis without incident.
One of the crew members of the Thai vessel had a minor flesh wound, which was treated by the Munro boarding team. The Coast Guardsmen also discovered four automatic weapons in the pilothouse, expended ammunition shells on the deck of the vessel, as well as ammunition on the detained suspects. The three suspects were transferred to Munro.
On 18 March 2006, USS Cape St. George, a Ticonderoga-class cruiser and USS Gonzalez, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, engaged pirate vessels after receiving fire from them. 12 (including 5 wounded) pirates were captured. The U.S. government chose not to prosecute the captured men for piracy and repatriated them over a period of several months.
On 20 January, a 14 Royal Malaysian Navy PASKAL assault teams engaging seven Somali pirates on board the Japanese-Malaysian chemical freighter MT Bunga Laurel, about 300 nautical miles (560 km; 350 mi) east of Oman, near Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, resulting in 3 pirates wounded, 4 remaining pirates captured, and the freeing of 23 Filipino hostages after gunfighting aboard the vessel.
In the early morning of 22 January, 15 ROKN UDT/SEAL members boarded the 11,000-ton chemical freighter Samho Jewelry which was taken by 13 pirates six days prior; killed 8 pirates and captured 5 without taking any casualties after three hours of intense firefighting. All 21 hostages were secured, with one hostage suffering a non-fatal gunshot wound to the abdomen.
A hijacked dhow was hailed by USS Bainbridge on 10 May, after which 7 pirates on board immediately surrendered. The ship's 15 crew members claimed they were hijacked six months prior and their ship was used as a mothership for the pirates.
The Danish Navy vessel, HDMS Esbern Snare exchanged fire with a hijacked boat, killing 4 pirates on 17 May. A boarding team subsequently captured 24 injured pirates and freed 16 hostages.
On 11 September, a Spanish Navy patrol boat engaged Somali pirates, freeing a French hostage after sinking the pirate skiff and capturing 7 pirates. The woman was taken hostage after pirates killed her husband and left her catamaran off the coast of Yemen.
On 11 October, Royal Marines embarked on board RFA Fort Victoria freed 23 crew members of a hijacked Italian cargo ship after it had been captured by pirates five days earlier. USS DeWert was the first vessel to arrive on scene after gathering intelligence on the whereabouts of the vessel and deploying counter intelligence surveillance units in the area.
On 3 October, the Tanzania navy freed a hijacked vessel and apprehended seven pirates, They are handed over to civilian police for further action.
On 31 October, the Kenyan military announced that they had captured two pirate skiffs, sunk three, and killed 18 pirates.
Acting on intelligence from other counter-piracy forces, USS Carney boarded the Indian-flagged dhow, Al Qashmi on 6 January. By the time the search team boarded, all evidence of potential piracy had been disposed of, though the crew said they were hijacked by the nine pirates on board from a different vessel. The nine suspected pirates were disarmed and given sufficient fuel and provisions to return to Somalia.
The next day, the Danish warship HDMS Absalon intercepted an Iranian-flagged dhow after identifying it as a potential pirate mother ship. Warning shots had to be fired before a search team boarded. In addition to the crew of 5 Iranian and 9 Pakistani nationals, the team seized 25 pirates. The captured pirates were then taken aboard Absalon to determine whether they should be prosecuted.
A third pirate vessel was intercepted on 13 January. RFA Fort Victoria fired off warning shots to stop the vessel and then launched a boarding party. The pirates surrendered without incident and search uncovered several rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons. Royal Marines held the pirates for further investigation.
HDMS Absalon had been observing a pirate mother ship for several days when it attempted to leave the coast of Somalia on 28 February. Danish forces fired on the ship, forcing it to stop. On board were 17 pirates and 18 hostages, though two of the hostages later died from wounds sustained. NATO said that an investigation would be held regarding the hostages' deaths.
On 11 October, pirates attacked Hong Kong registered tanker Island Splendor and attacked a Spanish fishing vessel three days later. Suspected to have been carried out by the same group of pirates, they were tracked down by RFA Fort Victoria, supported by HMAS Melbourne, ROKS Wang Geon, European Union flagship HNLMS Johan de Witt, and a Seychelles-based maritime patrol aircraft from Luxembourg. The pirate skiffs were tracked by Melbourne's Seahawk helicopter, a boarding team from Melbourne searched the skiffs, they successfully apprehended nine pirates and later destroyed two skiffs and their equipment.
By December 2013, the US Office of Naval Intelligence reported that only nine vessels had been attacked during the year by the pirates, with no successful hijackings. Control Risks attributed this 90% decline in pirate activity from the corresponding period in 2012 to the adoption of best management practices by vessel owners and crews, armed private security onboard ships, a significant naval presence, and the development of onshore security forces.
In 2016 the USS San Antonio, USS Mason, USS Nitze, and USS Ponce came under attack as they moved through the Bab al-Mandeb strait on the southern end of the Red Sea during support of Operation Enduring Freedom-Horn of Africa. Shortly after the attacks, the USS Nitze destroyed three radar sites in Yemen in retaliation for the two separate attacks on U.S. ships in the Red Sea.
Escalating tensions in Somalia
Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia
On 1 July 2006, a web-posted message purportedly written by Osama bin Laden urged Somalis to build an Islamic state in the country and warned western states that his al-Qaeda network would fight against them if they intervened there.
On 27 December 2006, The New York Times reported analysts in Nairobi, Kenya claimed U.S. surveillance aircraft were funneling information to Ethiopian forces. Major Kelley Thibode, a spokeswoman for the task force of American military personnel based in Djibouti, said she was "not at liberty to discuss" the matter. Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi declared one of the key objectives of the offensive on Kismayo was the capture of three alleged al-Qaeda members, suspects wanted for the 1998 United States embassy bombings in East Africa: Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Abu Taha al-Sudani. At the time, the United States Fifth Fleet's maritime task force (Combined Task Force 150) based out of Bahrain, was patrolling off the Somali coast to prevent terrorists launching an "attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material," said Commander Kevin Aandahl. The announcement did not say what particular ships comprised the cordon, but the task force includes vessels from Canada, France, Germany, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and the U.S. American ships of Combined Task Force 150 include the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Ramage and the Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Bunker Hill. The aim of the patrols shifted on 2 January 2007, according to diplomats, to "... stop SICC leaders or foreign militant supporters escaping".
On 2 January 2006, U.S. Marines operating out of Lamu, Kenya, were said to be assisting Kenyan forces patrolling the border with Somalia with the interception of Islamists. On 8 January it was reported that an AC-130 gunship belonging to the United States military had attacked suspected al-Qaeda operatives in southern Somalia. It was also reported that the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower had been moved into striking distance. The aircraft flew out of its base in Djibouti. Many bodies were spotted on the ground, but the identity of the dead or wounded was not yet established. The targeted leaders were tracked by the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as they headed south from Mogadishu starting on 28 December. It was reported that the leader of al-Qaeda in East Africa, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, was killed in the attack, but later officials confirmed that he survived and also that none of the al-Qaeda operatives were killed. However, at least 10 civilians were killed. On 9 January it was reported U.S. special forces and CIA operatives were working with Ethiopian troops on the ground in operations inside Somalia from a base in Galkayo, in Puntland, and from Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti. On 12 January, a small team of U.S. forces investigated the site of the U.S. gunship attack to search for information about the identity and fate of the targeted individuals.
On 17 January 2006, the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense for African affairs, Theresa Whelan, clarified the airstrike conducted on 8 January was not the work of the CJTF-HOA, but of another force which she did not specify. The target of the strike was confirmed to be Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, who was believed wounded or possibly dead, while eight members of his group were killed in the attack. Likewise, many airstrikes which resulted in civilian casualties around Afmadow conducted by Ethiopian aircraft were mis-attributed to the United States. On 21 January the capture of U.S. troops was reported by the Qaadisiya.com site, as well as the death of one due to malaria, but this assertion was denied as "utterly bogus" by Michael Ranneberger, U.S. Envoy to Kenya and Somalia. On 24 January, the U.S. admitted to have made a second airstrike, but did not confirm the exact date or location of the strike. United States involvement in the conflict continued through 2008 with airstrikes targeting suspected Al Qaeda affiliated militants including a strike of dubious success conducted on 2 March 2008 where at least one U.S. naval vessel launched cruise missiles against an Al Qaeda target in a strike on the village of Dobley and a successful strike on Dhusamareb which killed several militant leaders
Alleged operations in Somaliland
On 6 May 2005, a United States Marine Corps unit reportedly landed in Somaliland, the autonomous and self-declared state in northern Somalia. The landings were purportedly conducted to carry out searches, as well as to question locals regarding the whereabouts of terrorist suspects. United States military officials denied the allegations and said operations were not being conducted in Somaliland.
Somali Civil War (2009–present)
Operations against al-Qaeda linked terrorists continued in 2009 when on 14 September several U.S. Navy helicopters launched a raid in Baraawe against Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, killing him as well as five other militants. Also in 2009, Operators from the SAS and the SRR were deployed to Djibouti as part of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa to conducting operations against Islamist terrorists in Somalia; carrying out missions focusing on surveillance and targeting of terrorists, alongside their US counterparts, they have also been carrying out this role in Yemen. On 25 January 2012, two U.S. Navy SEAL teams raided a compound 12 miles (19 km) north of Adow, Somalia, freeing two hostages while killing nine pirates and capturing five others. On 5 October 2013, American commandos from DEVGRU launched an amphibious raid on the town of Baraawe engaging with al-Shabaab militants and inflicting some casualties on them before withdrawing. On 5 March 2016, U.S. airstrikes carried out by aircraft and unmanned drones killed more than 150 Al-Shabaab terrorists at a terrorist training camp called "Camp Raso", located about 120 miles north of Mogadishu as they were completing "training for a large-scale attack" according to a Pentagon spokesman. The camp had been under surveillance for some time before the strike. In the early hours of 9 March 2016, U.S. special forces and Somali national army special forces killed between 1 and 15 Al-Shabaab terrorists in a heliborne-attack on the Al-Shabaab-controlled town of Awdhegele, as well as capturing an undisclosed number of high-value Al-Shabaab figures the militants were training for a major operation against coalition forces. On 11/12 April 2016, two U.S. airstrikes on Al-Shabaab targets in the town of Kismayo killed about a dozen suspected militants who posed an "imminent threat" to American troops in the country. As of May 2016, roughly 50 U.S. special operations troops operate at undisclosed locations across southern Somalia, with their headquarters at the airport in Mogadishu; advising and assisting, Kenyan, Somali and Ugandan forces in their fight against Al-Shabaab. Also in that month, U.S. personnel helped those forces plan an operation against illegal checkpoints. On 13 May, a U.S. strike targeted nine al-Shabab militants, three of them were allegedly killed. On 1 June 2016, the Pentagon announced that it had conducted an airstrike that killed a senior Al-Shabaab leader in Somalia on 27 May. On 3 August 2016, a contingent of elite American troops acting as military advisers assisted Somali commandos in an assault on an al-Shabaab checkpoint in Saakow, as the Somali-led force approached the checkpoint the militants opened fire, a gun battle ensued that resulted in 3 militants killed. On 29 September 2016, the Military Times reported that on 26 September a bomb-manufacturing network linked al-Shabaab attacked a small team of U.S. and Somali troops, who were conducting an operation near Kismayo, with small-arms fire. A Pentagon spokesman said the U.S. military "conducted a self-defense strike to neutralize the threat and in doing so killed nine enemy fighters." Also on 28 September, near the town of Galkayo, a Somali army unit conducting counterterrorism operations nearby, when the Somali soldiers came under fire from al-Shabab militants. The Somali soldiers engaged them, then broke contact and rejoined with their nearby American advisers and soon afterwards the militants "began to maneuver in an offensive manner" so the U.S. conducted a self-defense airstrike, killing 4 militants.
- On 25 June 2011, U.S. Predator drones attacked a Shabaab training camp south of Kismayo. Ibrahim al-Afghani, a senior al Shabaab leader was rumored to be killed in the strike.
- On 6 September 2011, a U.S. drone struck a large Al-Shabaab base, killing 35 militants.
- A drone strike on 17 September killed 17 militants.
- A U.S. drone strike occurred near Mogadishu on 21 January 2012, killing British al-Qaeda operative Bilal el-Berjawi.
- 4 Al-Shabaab fighters, including a white Kenyan and a Moroccan jihadist named Abu Ibrahim, were killed in a drone strike in the K60 area (60 miles south of Mogadishu) of the Lower Shabelle region in southern Somalia late on 24 February 2012.
United States military fatalities
Two U.S. soldiers were killed in a vehicle accident in Ethiopia.
Two U.S. servicemen were killed in the Republic of Seychelles and in the Gulf of Oman, respectively.
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