Last September six helicopters with at least two AH-6 Little Bird (pictured to the right) attacked an al-Shabab convoy in southern Somalia, which carried Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. The convoy was quickly out-gunned. Wounded and dead militants were picked up and taken away by the helicopters.
The US military claimed responsibility for the operation, called Celestial Balance; they suggested it involved extensive coordination between Army and Navy with support from two warships and was planned over several months.
The success of a delicate and complex operation surely created a stir. Some reported it as a change in policy for the US; an “evolution in US operational and intelligence capabilities” — one that worked yet left civilians unhurt. Somali militants may have been spooked to the point where they were looking skyward more nervously. Retaliation was predicted but so far none has come.
Now a similar shootout has just been reported further north. Details are sketchy (one helicopter/two helicopters, shots fired/no shots fired) and the US denies involvement. The Scotsman calls it a mystery over Somalia helicopter shootout
Residents of the town of Merca, about 50 miles south-west of Mogadishu, said a military helicopter flew over on Sunday and Islamic militants from the al-Shabaab group fired on it. Some residents said the helicopter fired back but caused no major damage.
But no-one seems to know who the helicopter belongs to.
Maybe it is owned by the Stuxnet authors? I jest.
Unlike Stuxnet, which really truly could be written by anyone with a computer, a coordinated helicopter operation suggests nation-state resources and planning. If nothing else, this story gives a little better perspective on security resource differentiation. Perhaps African Union force Major Barigye Bahoku said it best:
You made me have the laugh of the year. There is no way the African Union force can be involved in such a strike. We don’t have helicopters — any air capacity whatsoever.
He does have a PC and a network connection, however.