A SENIOR leader of Al-Qaeda’s East Africa branch, the Shabaab, died in a US air strike in Somalia last week which also killed two other militants, the Pentagon has said.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said Monday that the removal of Abdirahman Sandhere “is a significant blow to al-Shebab and reflects the painstaking work by our intelligence, military, and law enforcement professionals.”
Sandhere, “also known as ‘Ukash,’ a senior leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated group al-Shabaab, is dead as a result of a US military air strike in Somalia undertaken on December 2”, he said.
Sandhere joins a growing list of Shabaab leaders killed in US airstrikes in Somalia over the last year.
The Shabaab is fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu, which is protected by 22,000 African Union troops.
The group has lost much ground in recent years but remain a threat in both Somalia and neighbouring Kenya, where they have carried out a series of attacks.
The movement is also facing growing divisions with some members shifting allegiance from Al-Qaeda to the Islamic State group and defections.
An unidentified American citizen defected and surrendered to Somali authorities following clashes between the pro-Islamic State fighters and al-Shabaab.
“He told us that he had feared for his life as he was being chased by a hit squad from the al-Qaeda linked group of al- Shabaab,” Hussein Mohamed Barre, mayor of the port town of Barawe, said by phone late Monday.
“He is white and emaciated because of the ordeal he has undergone.”
Al-Shabaab fighters have killed several pro-Islamic State foreign troops after deadly feuds in parts of southern Somalia in the recent past, Barre said, citing the defector. According to Barre, friction within the group’s ranks increased after some fighters pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, leading to bloody confrontations.
-Reporting by AFP and Bloomberg.