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January 27, 2023

Amy McGee, Mridul Jérémie Mahendroo WATCH/GSOC Team and Julia Tsarnas SOUTHCOM Team

Salomon Montaguth, Editor; Shachi Gokhale, Senior Editor

ISIS Flag[1]

Event: On Wednesday, January 25, US Special Forces conducted a military raid on an ISIS cave in northern Somalia. This raid killed the top ISIS leader, Bilal al-Sudani, along with 10 of his closest associates. There were no civilian or US military casualties. This raid was authorized by President Joe Biden earlier this week. Special Forces had practiced this raid multiple times at a mock facility, similar to the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden. While the raid’s initial intention was to capture operatives to maximize intelligence value, Special Forces prepared for the raid to result in casualties.[2] Al Sudani previously had ties to Al Shabaab and was responsible for spreading and funding ISIS globally, especially in Africa.[3]

Significance: There will likely be a reorganization of ISIS leadership within the Africa cell, with ISIS likely lying low in the region to avoid drawing attention to them until they establish a new chain of command. ISIS will likely look to retaliate against the US government in the coming weeks. This retaliation will likely occur against civilians rather than military targets due to the reorganization of leadership. Due to Western influence, Somali civilians will likely suffer heightened threats from ISIS, specifically the Christian community. There will likely be a shift among terrorist groups in Syria due to the US focus in the area and Somalia due to Al Sudani’s ties with Al Shabaab before his death. The focus will likely transfer from Syria to Somalia as ISIS is focusing on spreading throughout Africa. Although ISIS will likely reassess its priorities, efforts to spread jihadist beliefs through Africa and Afghanistan are unlikely to subside.


  • CTG recommends continuing joint counterterrorism efforts between the US and Somali governments. This successful operation shows that increased coordination between the intelligence community and the military is the key to fighting terrorism.

  • We recommend US Special Forces continue to utilize mock facilities in the region to prepare for operations months in advance, as this minimizes casualties and allows for the creation of contingency plans. It is recommended that the US government consult with HUMINT sources before military raids regarding the logistics of personnel, weaponry, and equipment within terrorist caves.

  • The US government should monitor the new ISIS leadership and who will now become the primary threat. Using SIGINT and HUMINT sources, the United States should devise a plan to limit the new leadership's power and influence in Africa and Afghanistan.

  • The Somali army should identify high-risk areas and reinforce security in public spaces and Christian-majority areas. The American and Somali intelligence communities should collaborate to deter retaliatory attacks on military forces, bases or civilians. We recommend the establishment of rural checkpoints to limit terrorists’ movements. In addition, local agents should be used to boost HUMINT capabilities in mountainous and rural areas.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email


[1]ISIL Flag” by Global Panorama licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

[2] Top Islamic State leader killed in US raid in Somalia, officials say, ABC NEWS, January 2023,

[3] U.S. military raid in northern Somalia kills a senior ISIS leader and 10 ISIS fighters, NBC News, January 2023,



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