US airstrike kills key militant in Somalia’s Al Shabab

Abdishakur Tahliil was the head of Amniyat, an elite unit blamed for suicide attacks in the Somali capital

Powered by automated translation

MOGADISHU // Al Shabaab’s intelligence chief was killed by a US aistrike near Somalia’s southern town of Saakow, said the National Intelligence and Security Agency on Tuesday.

The attack killed Abdishakur Tahliil, who was the head of Amniyat, an elite unit blamed for suicide attacks in the Somali capital, and two other senior officials.

Earlier, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright said the attack took place on Monday about 325 kilometres west of the capital, Mogadishu.

“We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information, when appropriate, as details become available,” Mr Wright said. “At this time, we do not assess there to be any civilian or bystander casualties.”

The strike comes three months after manned US aircraft and drones killed Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of the Al Qaeda-linked militant group that has waged an insurgency against Somalia’s government since 2006. The US declared the militia a terrorist organisation in 2008.

The Islamist group is seeking to topple the Western-backed Mogadishu government and impose its own strict version of Islamic law in the country.

The attacks by the US follow a series of military setbacks that Al Shabaab has suffered since African Union-backed Somali government troops pushed the militants to withdraw from Mogadishu in August 2011. Since then, the army has forced the insurgents to relinquish control of about 70 per cent of southern and central Somalia. Last week, Zakariya Ismail Hersi, a senior Al Shabaab commander wanted by the US, surrendered to the Somali authorities.

The US state department offered a $3 million reward for information leading to the capture of Hersi in 2012, describing him as head of the group’s intelligence.

Somali security forces handed over Hersi to the authorities in neighboring Kenya on Tuesday, reported China’s state news agency Xinhua, citing Adan Mohamed, a Somali security official.

* Bloomberg, with additional reporting from Reuters