THE United States confirmed Friday that Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of the Al Shabaab militants in Somalia, was killed in an air strike earlier this week, in what the White House called a major blow to Al-Qaeda’s network.
The death of Godane is “a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest Al-Qaeda affiliate in Africa and reflects years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals,” the White House said in a statement. The Pentagon also confirmed that Godane was taken out in Monday’s attack.
An African Union source in Mogadishu told Mail & Guardian Africa late Thursday that tests are being carried out on a body 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 were being done.
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 would be a “proud and happy moment for all Africa”.
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.
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..