News

U.S. confirms death of al-Shabab leader in Somalia air strike

U.S. confirms death of al-Shabab leader in Somalia air strike

AL-SHABAB: Pentagon press secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon, Tuesday, Sept. 2. The Pentagon says the leader of the Somalia-based al-Shabab extremist group was the target of U.S. military airstrikes that struck an encampment and a vehicle Monday night. Photo: Associated Press/Susan Walsh

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Pentagon confirmed on Friday that Ahmed Godane, a leader of the al Shabab Islamist group, was killed in a U.S. air strike in Somalia this week, calling it a “major symbolic and operational loss” for the al Qaeda-affiliated organization.

“We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabab, has been killed,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement.

Godane was a co-founder and leader of the group, which has carried many bombings and suicide attacks in Somalia and elsewhere, including the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 that killed at least 39 people.

Godane publicly claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack, saying it was revenge for Kenyan and Western involvement in Somalia and noting its proximity to the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

His death left a huge gap in al Shabab’s leadership and was seen as posing the biggest challenge to its unity since it emerged as a fighting force eight years ago.

Abdi Ayante, director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, said Godane’s death would be “a game changer in many ways for al Shabab.”

“What is likely to happen is a struggle for power,” he said a day before the Pentagon’s confirmed Godane’s death. Ayante said fragmentation was also possible in the absence of a leader with Godane’s experience and ruthless approach to dissent.

U.S. forces carried out the military operation targeting Godane in Somalia on Monday, but the Pentagon did not confirm his death until Friday, saying it was still assessing the results of the air strike.

Kirby said in his statement that “removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al Shabab.”

A separate statement from White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said the operation that killed Godane was the result of “years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals.”

Earnest said the administration would continue to use financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military tools to address the threat posed by al Shabab.

The U.S. State Department declared al Shabab a foreign terrorist organization in 2008.

Somalia’s government, with support from African peacekeepers and Western intelligence, has battled to curb al Shabab’s influence and drive the group from areas it has continued to control since it was expelled from Mogadishu in 2011.

(Reporting by David Alexander; Editing by Doina Chiacu and Susan Heavey)

Recent Headlines

in Sports, Viral Videos

Watch Steph Curry’s adorable daughter steal the post-game presser – again

Fresh
11-overlay8

Riley Curry is the hottest sports baby in the game right now.

in Entertainment

NPR’s ‘Serial’ plans 2 more seasons

serial

"Serial" junkies, get out your sleuthing kits again.

in Viral Videos

‘Animal Sound Man’ and his amazing impersonations

11-overlay7

Give this guy an animal - any animal - and he can do a spot-on impersonation.

in Entertainment

You can be on ‘House of Cards’

houseofcards

It's your chance to be part of a Washington scandal, and you don't even have to bribe a member of Congress.

in Trending, Viral Videos

TODAY’S MUST SEE: He said what?

13-overlay6

This isn't exactly the answer "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek was looking for.