Security sources say the death of the leader of Somalia’s al-Shabab militants in a US airstrike is a “very strong probability,” but still remains unconfirmed.
According to the Pentagon, US special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft destroyed an al-Shabab encampment and a vehicle in south-central Somalia late on Monday.
Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby also said the assault was aimed at the group’s leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also referred to as Abu-Zubayr, and that the ordnance certainly hit a meeting of al-Shabab chiefs. However, he noted that it was not clear if Godane was killed in the air raid.
This is while, an unnamed Western security source said there is “a very strong probability that he is dead,” adding, “This requires verification on the ground, which is not simple.”
A top Somali security official, whose name was not mentioned in the reports, also said he believed the al-Shabab is currently “talking about a successor” to Godane.
“We believe that the al-Shabab leader is dead, though we don’t have his body. Most probably he is dead,” said the official, while underlining that the group member was “still assessing the situation.”
Somalia’s government spokesman Abdiwali Ridwaan also said on Wednesday that Somali authorities are trying to verify whether Godane was killed or injured in the US attack.
The US has carried out several airstrikes in Somalia in recent years.
The latest US attack came after the Somali government forces regained control of a prison in the capital that was attacked on Sunday. Somali forces and the African Union troops had also captured the town of Bulomarer, south of Mogadishu earlier on Saturday.
Somalia has been the scene of clashes between government forces and al-Shabab militants since 2006.