US reportedly targets leader of al-Shabaab with Somalia drone strike
A U.S. drone reportedly targeted the leader of the Al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab group in a strike in southern Somalia Monday.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby provided few details about the nature of the operation, the results of which he said were being assessed.
"We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate," he said in a statement.
A senior Somali official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Associated Press that a U.S. drone targeted al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane as he left a meeting of the group's top leaders. The official told AP that intelligence indicated Godane "might have been killed along with other militants."
The official said that the strike took place in a forest near Sablale district, 105 miles south of Mogadishu, where the group trains its fighters. The governor of Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, Abdiqadir Mohamed Nor, told The Associated Press that as government and African Union forces were heading to a town in Sablale district, they heard something that sounded like an "earthquake" as drones struck al-Shabaab bases.
"There was an airstrike near Sablale, we saw something," Nor said.
The U.S. action comes after Somalia's government forces regained control of a high security prison in the capital that was attacked Sunday by seven heavily armed suspected Islamic militants who attempted to free other extremists held there. The Pentagon statement did not indicate whether the U.S. action was related to the prison attack.
Somali officials said all attackers, three government soldiers and two civilians were killed. Mogadishu's Godka Jilacow prison is an interrogation center for Somalia's intelligence agency, and many suspected militants are believed to be held in underground cells there.
The Somali rebel group al-Shabaab, which is linked to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack that shattered a period of calm in Mogadishu after two decades of chaotic violence. The attack started when a suicide car bomber detonated an explosives-laden vehicle at the gate of the prison, followed by gunmen who fought their way into the prison.
It was al-Shabaab gunmen who attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, with guns and grenades last September, killing at least 67 people. Al-Shabaab had threatened retaliation against Kenya for sending troops into Somalia against the extremists. Godane said the attack was carried out in retaliation for the West's support for Kenya's Somalia invasion and the "interest of their oil companies."