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

1 hour ago in Viral Videos

WATCH: This slow-mo capture of a lightning strike is like fire falling from the sky

Fresh
15-overlay-15

This wicked weather was recorded at 7000 frames per second. Mother Nature is truly breathtaking.

2 hours ago in Music, Viral Videos

Blake Shelton finally tries sushi

20-overlay-11

Jimmy Fallon takes "The Voice" judge out for a little dinner and a chance to broaden his horizons.

4 hours ago in Entertainment

REVIEW: ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ is a totally pointless, boring sequel

Updated
17-overlay-3

Not even Johnny Depp - reliable as ever inside a fright wig and exaggerated make up - can save this sequel.

7 hours ago in Entertainment

Stage is set for toughest National Spelling Bee ever

11-overlay-15

The final day of the Scripps National Spelling Bee could feature the most difficult words ever used in the competition.

9 hours ago in Music

Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood back for 50th CMA Awards

carrieunderwood43551292041

The pair will return for their ninth consecutive co-hosting run in November.