US airstrike in Somalia targets suspected militant leader
Unnamed military officials told CNN that the strike occurred in southern Somalia, where a “senior leader” linked to both Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab, Al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, was targeted by missiles.
It’s unclear if the strike was carried out by drones, but the same officials stated that the attack did not involve US troops on the ground.
The US military would not detail the name of the target, nor could it say whether or not the suspected militant leader was killed or wounded by the strike; bomb assessments of the site are still under investigation.
According to Reuters, the location of the airstrike was in Barawe, Somalia. Last October, a US military operation in the same area attempted to capture the Al-Shabaab leader known as “Ikrima,” but was ultimately abandoned after a heavy gunfight broke out and prevented US troops from capturing Ikrima alive.
Ikrima – born with the name Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar – has been singled out by the Kenyan government as the man behind numerous attacks, including a plan to strike Kenya’s parliamentary building and the United Nations office in Nairobi.
Al-Shabaab, meanwhile, has a history of close cooperation with Al-Qaeda, and wishes to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state in Somalia. Labeled as a terrorist group by the US State Department, it has claimed responsibility for a number of plots, including some in other countries, such as last year’s siege of a Nairobi shopping mall in which nearly 70 people were killed.
Earlier this month, Al-Shabaab declared that it was responsible for setting off three explosions at Somalia’s Jazeera Hotel. The blasts were accompanied by gunfire and killed at least 11 people while injuring more than a dozen others.
This latest strike by the US continues to highlight the country’s increased presence in Somalia. As RT reported previously, a small unit of uniformed trainers and advisers has been established in Somalia’s capitol, Mogadishu, in order to assist groups such as Somali security forces and the African Union in their battle against Al-Shabaab.