U.S. Targets al-Shabaab Leader as Africans Meet on Attacks
U.S. drones targeted the head of the Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, a regional governor said, as African leaders met in Kenya to discuss ways of dealing with the threat posed by militants.
Ahmed Abdi Godane was among a number of “high-ranking” al-Shabaab officials who were meeting at Dhaytubako, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, when the drones struck late yesterday, Lower Shabelle Governor Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur said in a phone interview today. The Pentagon said in an e-mailed statement that it carried out an operation against al-Shabaab, without providing further details.
“We believe that a large number of senior al-Shabaab officials have been hurt in the attack, but I cannot specifically confirm if Godane was killed,” Mohamed Nur said. “He was among those meeting during the attack.”
Godane, also known as Ahmed Abdi Aw-Mohamed, was named as emir of al-Shabaab in December 2007, according to the United Nations, which lists him among 13 organizations and individuals subject to sanctions. In June 2013, he carried out a purge of dissident leaders to tighten his control over the group, assassinating Ibrahim al-Afghani, a senior al-Shabaab leader who had criticized Godane’s leadership, according to Austin, Texas-based Stratfor Global Intelligence.
In September 2013, Godane claimed responsibility for an attack on the Westgate shopping mall in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, in which at least 67 people died. The U.S. has offered a $7 million reward for information on his whereabouts.
The Associated Press said that Godane was in one of two vehicles hit in the drone strike, citing Abu Mohammed, a commander of al-Shabaab. Mohammed did not say whether Godane was among six militants killed in the attack, it said.
The U.S. has carried out previous raids in Somalia, including one in January that targeted an unidentified al-Shabaab leader. The group, which is affiliated with al-Qaeda, has been fighting to establish an Islamic state in Somalia since 2006.
No further information is available about yesterday’s strike, Defense Department spokeswoman Lt.-Col. Vanessa Hillman said in an e-mailed response to questions.
African leaders meeting in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, said more concerted action is needed to defeat the threat posed by al-Shabaab and other insurgent groups in Africa. Governments on the continent have failed to take action that is “commensurate” with the threat posed by militant groups, African Union Peace and Security Council Chairman Idriss Deby said at the summit.
Attacks by militants have left thousands of people dead across the continent. Boko Haram Islamist militants in Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, killed more than 2,000 people in the first half of this year in their campaign to impose Islamic rule, according to Human Rights Watch.
On the other side of the continent, at least 179 people have died in “terrorist incidents” in Kenya, Bath-based risk consultancy Maplecroft said, while in Libya, Islamists are battling for control of the capital, Tripoli.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta announced at the summit that a fund will be created to combat militant groups, without providing further details.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, the African Union Peace and Security Council urged its members to work toward preventing recruitment of their nationals into militant groups operating on the continent and other territories like Iraq and Syria.
The council also urged member states to increase their efforts to stop transnational organized crime including drug trafficking so that insurgents don’t gain proceeds from those activities.