Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA) is the name of the military operation defined by the United States for combating terrorism and piracy in the Horn of Africa. It is one component of the broader Afghan war category of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), which includes eight African nations stretching from the far northeast of the continent to the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea in the west. The other OEF mission in Africa is known as Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans Sahara (OEF-TS), which, until the creation of the new Africa Command, has been run out of European Command.
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 component is the multinational Combined Task Force 150 (CTF-150) 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 service men and women from the United States military and allied countries. The official areas 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.
Interception of missiles from North Korea
On 9 December 2002 Spanish SPS Navarra (F85) intercepted the unflagged freighter So San several hundred miles southeast of Yemen at the request of the United States government. The frigate fired across the 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 and in parallel to other independent anti-piracy operations conducted off the coast of Somalia by other countries such as China, India and Russia.
The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Munro (WHEC-724), working with HMS Invincible and 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 hi-jacking 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 hi-jackers demanded U.S. $800,000 in ransom for the vessel’s crew.
Commander, Combined Task Force (CTF) 150 tasked the Invincible, destroyer 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 onto 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. The Munro was assigned to CTF 150, which is the Coalition maritime task force conducting Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in the vicinity of the Horn of Africa, Gulf of Aden, Red Sea, North Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman.
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 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, 15 January ROKN UDT/SEAL members boarded the 11,000-ton chemical freighter Samho Jewelry which was taken by 13 pirates 6 days prior; killed 8 pirates and captured 5 without taking any casualties after 3 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 the USS Bainbridge on 10 May, after which 7 pirates on board immediately surrendered. The ship's 15 crew members claimed they were hijacked 6 months prior and their ship was used as a mothership for the pirates.
On 16 May, the USS Stephen W. Groves exchanged fire with Jih Chun Tsai 68, a known pirate mothership. When a boarding team arrived, they found 3 pirates dead and captured 2 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 the Royal Fleet Auxiliary RFA Fort Victoria freed 23 crew members of a hijacked Italian cargo ship after it had been captured by pirates 5 days earlier.
On 3 October, Tanzania Navy freed a hijacked vessel and managed to apprehend seven pirates, They are handed over to civilian police for further action.
On 31 October, the Kenyan Military announced that they had captured 2 pirate skiffs, sunk 3, and killed 18 pirates.
Acting on intelligence from other counter-piracy forces, the 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 9 pirates on board from a different vessel. The 9 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 could board. In addition to the crew of 5 Iranian and 9 Pakistani nationals, the team seized 25 pirates. The captured pirates were then taken aboard the Absalon to determine whether they should be prosecuted.
A third pirate vessel was intercepted on 13 January. The RFA Fort Victoria fired off warning shots to stop the vessel and then launched a boarding party. All of the pirates surrendered without incident and search uncovered several RPGs and automatic weapons. Royal Marines held the captured pirates for further investigation.
The 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.
Escalating tensions in 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 11 July 2006, the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) took control of the Somali capital Mogadishu, and by the beginning of December had firm control of most of the south of Somalia. In November 2006, a United States Marine detachment was in the town of Garissa in Kenya's North Eastern Province, adjoining Somalia. Officially, the Marines were an engineering detachment conducting a humanitarian mission of drilling bore holes in conjunction with the Kenya military to support flood relief. However, locals speculated that the Marines were performing a reconnaissance mission close to the Somali border. On 26 November 2006, the U.S. Embassy in Kenya issued a travel alert to U.S. citizens regarding travel to Kenya or Ethiopia after letters allegedly written by the Somalian leader of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, encouraged suicide attacks on U.S. citizens in those two countries.
War in Somalia
On 14 December 2006, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer warned that al-Qaeda cell operatives were controlling the Islamic Courts Union, the Islamist faction of Somalia rapidly taking control of the southern area of the country. The next day, ICU Information Secretary Abdirahim Ali Mudey denied the allegation as baseless. Frazer later announced that the United States has no intention of committing troops to Somalia to root out al-Qaeda.
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 8 militants of the ICU and at least 2 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 2007, the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense for African affairs, Theresa Whelan, clarifed 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 ICU's 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. On 1 February 2007, the captured ICU leader Sharif Ahmed was released from Kenyan police authorities. He also was reported to have met with Michael Ranneberger allegedly to arrange for the release of the captured U.S. troops. By 8 February, Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed had gone to Yemen where other ICU members are also thought to have gone. On that day, reports in the Yememi Arabic newspaper Al-nedaa stated Sharif Ahmed's release was the first conditional step to arrange the release of varying reports of 11 or 15 United States Marines allegedly captured during fighting in southern Somalia at the Battle of Ras Kamboni. Four Marines were also alleged to have been wounded in the fighting. However, while these stories of captured American soldiers were prevalent in Somali media, they received little or no attention in the Western media. 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.
War in Somalia (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. On 25 January 2012, two U.S. Navy Seal teams raided a compound 12 miles north of Adow, Somalia, freeing two hostages while killing nine pirates and capturing five others. On 5 October 2013, American commandos from Seal Team 6 launched an amphibous raid on the town of Baraawe engaging with al-Shabaab militants and inflicting some casuaties on them before withdrawing.
- 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 strike on 17 September killed 17 militants.
- A U.S. drone strike occurred near Mogadishu on 22 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
18 U.S. servicemen have been killed in non-hostile incidents in Djibouti since the start of operations in the Horn of Africa.
Three U.S. soldiers were killed in accidents in Kenya.
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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- USCGC MUNRO and UK Navy US And UK Navies Resolve Hi-Jacking
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