After Drone Attack, Al-Shabaab “Save Face” While Media Get It Wrong And Right

HSM in Jilib - 3On 28 October 2013, a reported U.S. drone strike near the al-Shabaab stronghold of Jilib in Middle Juba struck a car carrying two of the group’s militants identified as top suicide explosives expert Ibrahim Ali Abdi (aka Anta Anta & Adeer Ali) and Warsame Baalle.

While pictures were not released of the strike’s destruction, pro-al-Shabaab sites were quick to publish photos of al-Shabaab’s reaction: organized columns of fighters in Jilib intended to convince the public that the group remains strong in numbers despite AMISOM, Ethiopian, and Somali forces fighting it on the ground and Western assets in the air.

Recently, al-Shabaab has hosted several military parades–such as the one below in August 2013 in Ceel Buur. These displays occur amid claims that the stalled offensive would soon continue against the group.

Media Reporting On The Attack

Reporting about the drone attack was marred by high-profile news agencies like the New York Times and LA Times quoting an unofficial al-Shabaab Twitter account @HSMPress01.  The unofficial handle had tweeted that the drone strike killed innocent women and children, which no other reliable source reported.

As of this writing, al-Shabaab has no official Twitter account. (Note: the group’s Twitter exploits are explained expertly here by Christopher Anzalone.)

Journalist Mukhtar Ibrahim and researcher J.M. Berger both pointed out the mis-affiliations in the press, with NYT later issuing a correction and Berger noting the LA Times’ clumsy caveating of its dubious citation.

In more reliable coverage, VOA journalist Harun Maruf reported that the target of the drone strike Ibrahim Ali Abdi was key in overseeing past high profile attacks:

Notably, the drone strike yesterday closely coincided with 29 October 2013 as the fifth anniversary of the suicide bombings noted above in which dozens were killed and injured in Somaliland and Puntland.

Categories: al-Shabaab

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