AN African Union source in Mogadishu told Mail & Guardian Africa late Thursday that tests are being carried out on a body thought thought be that of feared Al Shabaab leader Islamist Abdi Godane.
He declined to give details about how either the Americans, African Union, or Somali government forces secured the suspected body of Godane, and where the tests are being done.
The fate of Godane remains unclear; three days after a US missile strike targeted his convoy. However an AU security officer speaking on condition he is not identified because he is not authorised to comment on the matter, said, “there is a body, I can confirm that. We all think it could be Godane’s, but I can tell you it’s him 100% after DNA tests confirm”, he told Mail & Guardian Africa. “Strange things happen in war, and in Somalia.”
The commander of African Union troops in Somalia said earlier Thursday the continent would celebrate if the death of the chief of extremist Shabaab rebels in a US missile strike was true.
General Silas Ntigurirwa, commander of the 22,000-strong AU force (AMISOM), said the killing of Godane—if confirmed—would be a “proud and happy moment for all Africa”.
Security sources have said there is a “very strong probability” he has been killed, but Shabaab officials have so far refused to confirm or deny the reports.
An AMISOM source told news agency AFP Godane “probably died during the attack” but that efforts to verify his death were continuing.
The Shabaab are fighting to topple Somalia’s internationally-backed government and regularly launch attacks against state targets, as well as in neighbouring countries that contribute to an African Union force.
That included last year’s siege of the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, which left at least 67 dead.
The air raid came days after African Union troops and Somali government forces launched “Operation Indian Ocean”, a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports from the Shabaab and cutting off one of their key sources of revenue: multi-million dollar exports of charcoal.
AU forces were targeting Shabaab on several fronts, with Ugandan troops leading the offensives against the main port of Barawe, south of Mogadishu.
“Hopefully soon we’ll liberate the port towns that allow them to replenish their stocks of weapons and recruit foreign fighters,” said Ntigurirwa, speaking to reporters while in his home nation of Burundi.
“Taking Barawe, I think, it’ll be very soon.”
Washington has carried out a series of drone missile strikes in the past, including attacks reportedly targeting Godane.
Godane, 37, who reportedly trained in Afghanistan with the Taliban, took over the leadership of the Shabaab in 2008 after then chief Adan Hashi Ayro was killed by a US missile strike.
The source that spoke to Mail & Guardian Africa however warned that eastern Africa should “brave itself for the worst”.
“The terrorists are not like our leaders and parties who don’t have succession plans”, he said. “They always do, and as the line of successors try to prove they are worthy, or the new leader seeks to establish himself, they are likely to carry out very violent attacks”, he said.