Somalia’s al-Shabab ‘seizes missile-armed drone’

Al-Qaeda-linked group says it retrieved unmarked drone armed with six missiles after it crashed in southern Gedo region.

Al-Shabab said they had safely removed the missiles from the drone [AP]

Somali rebel group al-Shabab says it has seized an armed drone after it crashed in Somalia’s southern Gedo region.

The unmarked drone, which the group said was armed with six missiles, came down in the hilly Buuraaha Sanda’ar region, about 60km northwest of the town of Baardheere on Sunday evening, in an area controlled by the al-Qaeda-linked armed group.

The drone wreckage and the six missiles were retrieved by the rebel group, an al-Shabab commander told Al Jazeera on Monday.

“It crashed away from civilian areas. Our fighters took it away and we have safely removed the missiles from the drone,” Sheikh Abdirahman Abu Mohamed, the group’s Gedo governor, told Al Jazeera.

A Gedo government official and a Kenyan security source stationed in the town of Baardheere both confirmed the crash to Al Jazeera.

It is not clear what brought down the drone and no country has claimed it.

‘Sensitive technology’

Justin Bronk, a research analyst in military sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, told Al Jazeera that if al-Shabab indeed had the drone and missile in their possession, they could potentially put it on the market.

“Because the missiles these drones carry are laser-guided, it is quite difficult to see how they could use or fire them accurately,” Bronk said.

“The greater danger is if Al-Shabab has six live hellfire missiles, they could potentially make money by selling those to foreign powers like China or Iran. There is sensitive technology in these missiles, even though they have been around for a long time,” Bronk added.     

In 2013 a suspected US surveillance drone crashed near the town of Bulo Mareer in the Lower Shabelle region of the country. The group released photos purported to be of the surveillance drone.

Previously drone strikes have targeted senior members of the group, which is fighting to topple Somalia’s internationally recognised government.

In July last year the town of Baardheere, which was then under the rebels’ control, was targeted by a dawn drone strike, which killed two senior commanders, according to government officials.

The US Defense Department said in March that a drone strike in southern Somalia killed Adnaan Garar, who is suspected of being one of the masterminds behind the Nairobi mall siege which killed at least 67 people.

Follow Hamza Mohamed on Twitter: @Hamza_Africa

Source: Al Jazeera