According to the New York Times yesterday, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a suspected al-Qaeda leader wanted in connection with numerous bombings in Africa, was killed by US commandos who used four military helicopters to disable two trucks carrying Nabhan and other suspected militants in Somalia. A total of 9 people were killed during the strike. The article declared:
Mr. Nabhan played an increasingly important role as a senior instructor for new militant recruits, including some Americans, as well as a liason to senior Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, the senior American advisor said.
"This is very significant because it takes away a person who's been a main conduit between East Africa extremists and big Al-Qaeda," said the advisor, who like several United States officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the mission.
The extrajudicial killing of "suspected Al-Qaeda leaders" and other "terrorists" is a lamentable policy that has been enacted by both Democratic and Republican administrations, including current President Obama's administration. In all likelihood, Mr. Nabhan was a dangerous man responsible for the deaths of innocents and had links to terrorist groups. However, we will never know this for sure, as he was never investigated and prosecuted by any court of law. The U.S. military, acting on, again, in all likelihood, reliable intelligence about this man, was the judge, jury and executioner in his case. Given the extreme difficulties of fighting this "war on terror", many will argue that this was the best option available to U.S. policy-makers and military leaders. They will argue that arresting, investigating, and prosecuting Mr. Nabhan would have been extremely difficult and dangerous, if even feasible. I would say that engaging in extrajudicial killings by using military force in a sovereign nation is not only unwise, but increases the likelihood of the people we are trying to help of viewing our overt use of military force as unjust and immoral, not to mention contradictory to core Western values of due process, given that collateral damage and the killings of innocent civilians is an inevitability using these methods of justice.