UK & World News

  • 2 September 2014, 11:26

US Military Strike Targets Shabaab Leaders

The US military has said it carried out an operation against al Shabaab militants in Somalia as reports emerged of a drone strike against the group's leaders.

A Somali governor said an airstrike targeted al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Abu Zubayr, as he left a meeting of the group's top leaders.

"The Americans carried out a major air strike targeting a gathering by senior al Shabaab officials, including their leader Abu Zubayr," Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, governor for southern Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, said.

He added that there were "casualties" but it was not clear if Godane or any other senior figures had been killed.

However, an unnamed Somali intelligence official told the AP news agency that intelligence indicated Godane "might have been killed".

The 37-year-old militant was was reportedly trained by the Taliban in Afghanistan and took over the leadership of Shabaab in 2008 after Adan Hashi Ayro was killed in a US missile attack.

The US announced a $7m (£4.2m) reward for information on his whereabouts in 2012.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement: "We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate." 

No further details about the operation were immediately available.

Al Shabaab is an al Qaeda-affiliated Islamist group that wants to impose its own strict version of Sharia law in Somalia and has also carried out attacks in Kenya and Uganda.

It controlled most of the southern region of Somalia from 2006 until 2011, when African peacekeeping troops marched into the capital, Mogadishu.

The reported airstrike came as the African Union and Somali forces launched a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports.

Mr Nur said the Shabaab leadership were meeting to discuss the "current offensive". 

He said they were gathered at a location used as a training camp for suicide bombers in a remote area of the Lower Shabelle region, south of the capital.