Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary, provided some additional details on last night’s airstrike on Shabaab, al Qaeda’s official branch in Somalia. Shabaab’s emir, Ahmed Abdi Godane, a.k.a. Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, was the target of the strike, which included both drones and manned aircraft, Kirby confirmed. And the strike hit a Shabaab “encampment” south of Mogadishu. From Kirby’s press briefing:
Yesterday, at approximately 11:20 Eastern Time, working from actionable intelligence, U.S. special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft destroyed an encampment and a vehicle using several Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions.
This operation was a direct strike against the Al-Shabaab network, specifically the group’s leader, Ahmed Abdi al-Muhammad, also known Ahmed Godane. We are still assessing the results of the operation, and we’ll provide additional information when and if appropriate.
Kirby would not say whether Godane or other senior Shabaab leaders were killed. Somali officials said earlier today that Shabaab leaders Muhammad Abu Abdallah, the group’s shadow governor of Lower Shabelle; Muhammad Abu Sham, Godane’s aide; Ali Muhammad Gulled, a logistics officer; Muhammad Husayn Nur (a.k.a. Abu Hamza Al Ayman); Sheikh Muhammad Dulyaden; Iqri Ubayd, a Sudanese operative; and Mubarak Abdallah, a Yemeni, were all present at the camp during the strike. [See LWJ report, US targets Shabaab’s leadership in southern Somalia.]
Shabaab has yet to comment on the strike, which took place at a Shabaab camp located between the villages of Dhay Tubako and Haway along the Shabelle River south of Mogadishu.
The loss of Godane would likely be a temporary setback for the jihadist group. Shabaab has an established leadership cadre, and has proved resilient after losing senior leaders in the past.