Somalia's Al-Shabaab chief likely dead in U.S. airstrike: source
"Very strong probabilty he is dead," says Western security source, as militant group declines to comment
The death of the leader of Somalia's al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab rebels in a U.S. air strike is a “very strong probability,” but still unconfirmed, security sources told AFP Wednesday.
“There is a very strong probability that he is dead,” said a Western security source, who asked not be identified. “This requires verification on the ground, which is not simple.”
A senior Somali security official echoed the comment.
“We believe that the Shabaab leader is dead, though we don’t have his body. Most probably he is dead,” said the official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said he believed al-Shabaab were now “talking about a successor” to Ahmed Abdi Godane after the air strike late on Monday.
“But we are still assessing the situation,” the official said.
A senior Somali security official also said Ahmed Abdi Godane was “most probably” killed.
Contacted by AFP, al-Shaba’ab officials maintained their position of refusing to confirm or deny the reports.
“We don’t want to comment on this American propaganda that they have killed our leader,” a senior al-Shabaab official said.
Washington has carried out a series of drone missile strikes in the past, including attacks reportedly targeting Godane—listed by the US State Department as one of the world’s top eight terror fugitives.
Godane, 37, who reportedly trained in Afghanistan with the Taliban, took over the leadership of al-Shabaab in 2008 after then-chief Adan Hashi Ayro was killed by a US missile strike.
U.S. authorities have offered a $7-million reward for information on Godane, similar to the bounty on Nigeria’s Boko Haram leader. A tip on the Taliban’s Mullah Omar is worth up to $10 million, and al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al-Zawahiri fetches $25 million.
Al-Shaba’ab are fighting to topple Somalia’s internationally backed government, and regularly launch attacks against state targets, as well as in neighboring countries that contribute to an African Union force.