The Obama administration confirmed today that the leader of Al-Shaaab was killed in a Labor Day airstrike.
“We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabaab, has been killed. The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death. Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabaab,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement. “The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations.”
Al-Shabaab was quiet after the strike, issuing no statements, leading analysts to believe that either the terror group had taken a hit or has been planning a retaliatory hit.
The White House echoed the news, with press secretary Josh Earnest saying “Godane’s removal is a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaida affiliate in Africa and reflects years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals.”
“Even as this is an important step forward in the fight against al-Shabaab, the United States will continue to use the tools at our disposal – financial, diplomatic, intelligence and military –to address the threat that al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups pose to the United States and the American people. We will also continue to support our international partners, particularly the African Union Mission in Somalia, that are working to support the Federal Government of Somalia build a secure and stable future for the Somali people,” Earnest continued.
There was no mention of Godane being killed on Al-Shabaab’s news site, which carried Ayman al-Zawahiri’s statement yesterday of al-Qaeda’s South Asia expansion and the recent beheading of American journalist Steve Sotloff.
Al-Shabaab and al-Qaeda allied in 2012. In September of last year, they executed the gruesome attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi.
Last month, Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud warned an audience in D.C. of the concern of Al-Shabaab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram training together even though they’re physically a continent apart.
Boko Haram has been making lightning-quick gains, taking territory and declaring a caliphate.
“There are more non-Somalis than Somalis at the highest level” of Al-Shabaab now, he said. “We have people from North America, people from Europe, people from Asia, the Gulf… we have all kinds of people in place but still Somalia has the name associated with Al-Shabaab.”
The country’s instability left the nation “a vacuum for a long time,” Mohamud acknowledged. “This has been a breeding ground for them.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said at the top of an anti-ISIS coalition meeting in Wales today that they could learn lessons from fighting the Islamic State to use later against al-Qaeda in North Africa.
“I think this could become conceivably a model that can help us with Boko Haram, could help us with Shabaab, with other groups if we can do this successfully,” Kerry said.