What you need to know:
- It took five days for the confirmation of the death of Godane.
- Initially, the Pentagon said it “believed” he was dead, but needed “verification on the ground, which is not simple”.
The man who ordered the attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi was felled by US airstrikes in Somalia.
The US Department of Defence (Pentagon) confirmed on Friday evening that Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was among 11 militants killed in targeted strikes on Monday.
“Today, the Department of Defence confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the leader of Al-Shabaab, is dead as a result of a US military airstrike in Somalia undertaken over the weekend,” the White House said in a statement.
“Godane’s removal is a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest Al-Qaeda affiliate in Africa and reflects years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals.”
It took five days for the confirmation of the death of Godane. Initially, the Pentagon said it “believed” he was dead, but needed “verification on the ground, which is not simple”.
The attack was by US special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft and targeted Al-Shabaab camps some 130 kilometres south of Mogadishu.
His killing follows a similar death met by his predecessor Aden Hashi Ayro, who was felled in 2008.
It comes at a time when the US and Amisom forces have re-launched an offensive aimed at annihilating Al-Shabaab’s remaining strongholds in Southern and central parts of Somali.
Godane, 37, who was also known as Abu Zubayr, is said to have given his personal backing for the attack on September 21, last year, on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi in which at least 67 people were killed.
He followed that massacre with a statement in which he warned Kenyans to brace for further attacks unless the country withdraws its forces from Somalia.
“The attack at #WestgateMall is just a very tiny fraction of what Muslims in Somalia experience at the hands of Kenyan invaders,” he cheered on Al-Shabaab’s Twitter account then.
“For long we have waged war against the Kenyans in our land, now it’s time to shift the battleground and take the war to their land #Westgate.”
Their Twitter handles were later suspended only to re-emerge under different identities.
Godane was one of the terrorist fugitives the State Department identified, and a reward of $7-million (Sh600 million) had been announced for information on him.
Under his leadership, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the July 2010 bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people watching a World Cup football final match.
Al-Shabaab also acknowledged a suicide bombing in Djibouti that killed a Turkish national and wounded several Western soldiers.