Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Pentagon Discloses Airstrike Against Senior Somalia Al-Shabaab Leader
Damage from al-Shabaab attack during 2014.

The United States launched an airstrike against a senior al Shabab militia leader in southwestern Somalia on Monday, a Pentagon spokesman disclosed.

Rear Admiral John Kirby did not name the target of the strike near the town of Saakow, northeast of the militants' stronghold of Kismayo, saying only that security officials were "assessing the results of the operation" that would be made public when appropriate and as details become available.

No civilian casualties were known to have resulted from the airstrike, Kirby said.

A US airstrike in early September killed al-Shabab's top commander, Ahmed Abdi Godane, as he travelled in a convoy south of the government-controlled capital, Mogadishu.

In October, Navy SEALs raided the home of another al Shabab leader, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, in Baraawe, south of Mogadishu, in a failed attempt to capture the militant also known as Ikrima.

Godane, 37, was considered responsible for steering al Shabab into closer alignment with al Qaeda and its more global, anti-Western direction after taking over the militia in 2008. The group had previously focused its insurgent operations on Somali government forces.

Under Godane's leadership, al Shabab gunmen conducted summary executions, amputations and other extremist acts against those who didn't share their harsh interpretation of Islam, alienating more moderate Somali Muslims and accelerating the flight of refugees and asylum-seekers. Internal resistance to the militia intensified after al Shabab gunmen blocked Western humanitarian aid to the country during Somalia's 2011 famine.

Al Shabab in recent months has claimed responsibility for attacks on neighbouring Kenya's coastal tourist resort areas, as well as a December 3 suicide bombing of a UN convoy near Mogadishu's airport.

The militia was also behind the 2013 siege of the upscale Westgate mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, killing at least 67 people.

The airstrike that killed Godane and the attempt on the unnamed militia leader on Monday demonstrated intensified US resolve to contain the violent insurgency that threatens the US-allied government in Mogadishu.

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