US forces carried out air-strikes against Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, with casualties reported but uncertainty over the fate of the main target, Somali officials said Sept. 2. Godane was traveling in one of two vehicles hit in apparent drone strike, a member of the Islamist group said. The spokesman would not say whether Godane was among the six militants killed. The two vehicles were heading toward the coastal town of Barawe, Shabaab's main base, when they were hit. The Pentagon confirmed the US military carried out an "operation," and that it was "assessing the results." The US has a large drone base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, and also flies surveillance drones over Somalia from a base in Ethiopia. The Pentagon quietly deployed a small team of advisers to Somalia last October to coordinate operations with African troops fighting to wrest control of the country from Shabab.
The airstrike comes days after the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali government forces launched "Operation Indian Ocean," a major offensive aimed at seizing key ports from Shabab and cutting off one of their key sources of revenue—multi-million dollar exports of charcoal.
Godane, also known by the name Abu Mukhtar al-Zubayr, is listed by the US State Department as one of the world's eight top terror fugitives, with a $7 million bounty on his head. Godane has been the target of a number of airstrikes in the past year, including two near-death misses at the hands of the Kenyan and US militaries in January.
Godane, 37, who reportedly trained in Afghanistan with the Taliban, took over the leadership of Shabab in 2008 after then chief Aden Hashi Farah Ayro was killed by a US missile strike. Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri has recognized Godane as the head of the "mujahedeen" in East Africa. (Sabahi Online, US Africa Command; AP via Garowe Online, WP, Sept. 2)