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France Points The Way
by James Dunnigan
November 2, 2014

Al Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane was killed by an American missile attack south of Mogadishu on September 2nd. Godane was hosting a meeting with other leaders and about ten days later France revealed that it had provided the key information on the vehicle Godane was travelling in and where the al Shabaab leader was headed that day. The U.S. and France have long cooperated like this in Africa. Both nations maintain a joint special operations base in nearby Djibouti. Both countries are usually quiet about this cooperation but France felt compelled to mention details of this incident publically because Godane was behind the 2009 capture of two French agents in Somalia. One of the agents escaped but the other one died during a rescue attempt by French commandos in 2013. France wanted Godane badly and had ordered the military and intelligence forces to find him. Once the French had good information on where Godane was going to be, they passed that on to the Americans, who had missile armed UAVs operating over Somalia regularly. Gadane was on the “most wanted” lists of both the United States and France and the successful missile attack was welcomed in both countries.

The two French agents belonged to the French foreign intelligence agency (DGSE), a CIA-like operation with about 4,500 French employees and over a thousand foreign informants and agents. The two DGSE men were running a local network to monitor al Shabaab and other private armies in the area. This was a dangerous operation because too many people are for sale in Somalia and it is common for local hires to sell you out if the price is right. DGSE has always worked more closely with the French Army than does the CIA with U.S. SOCOM (Special Operations Command). Thus when the two DGSE agents were taken by al Shabaab, the French military and intelligence establishments both took an equally intense interest in getting them back. Because one agent was killed, it was considered urgent to get the al Shabaab leader responsible. That meant Ahmed Godane had to be captured or killed. Godane knew the French were after him and increased his security to the point where capture was difficult.

Godane was an old-school Islamic terrorist, starting out with al Qaeda in Afghanistan during the 1990s. He was the one who shifted al Shabaab from working to take over Somalia to trying to be an international terror operation. This strategy was not a success and all al Shabaab was able to do was a few attacks in neighboring countries, mainly Kenya. Ordering more attacks in Kenya was not terribly difficult as there is already an ethnic Somali population there, mainly in the large coastal cities. Then there are over half a million Somali refugees that Kenya hosts in camps near the Somali border. Godane took over as head of al Shabaab in 2008 and in 2009 announced he was going international and pledging allegiance to al Qaeda. This caused some violent disagreements within al Shabaab and after killing or driving away dozens of senior dissenters, Godane began implementing his new strategy. Shortly after that the U.S. offered a $7 million reward for his capture. Since then there have been over a hundred Islamic terrorist attacks in Kenya killing nearly 400 people. The worst one was in 2013 when an attack on a shopping center by four al Shabaab gunmen left 67 dead. Al Shabaab concentrated on Kenya after 2011 because Kenyan troops moved into southern Somalia to stop the increasing lawlessness on their side of the border and basically shit down al Shabaab operations along the Kenyan border.

 


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