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Targeting Al-Shabab Leadership, U.S. Launches Airstrikes In Somalia

The United States conducted airstrikes in Somalia late Monday, targeting the leadership of the al-Qaida affiliate al-Shabab.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John F. Kirby tells The New York Times that the U.S. is "still assessing the results of the operation." Kirby would not reveal further details.

Local officials, however, tell Bloomberg that the airstrikes came near a meeting of top al-Shabab officials, including its spiritual leader. Bloomberg reports:

"Ahmed Abdi Godane was among a number of 'high-ranking' al-Shabab officials who were meeting at Dhaytubako, about 300 kilometers (186 miles) southwest of the capital, Mogadishu, when the drones struck late yesterday, Lower Shabelle Governor Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur said in a phone interview today.

" 'We believe that a large number of senior al-Shabab officials have been hurt in the attack, but I cannot specifically confirm if Godane was killed,' Mohamed Nur said. 'He was among those meeting during the attack.' "

CNN, which first broke the story, reports that the strike happened in the port city of Barawe, which is an al-Shabab stronghold. Mohamed Nur told the network that al-Shabab leaders were meeting to strategize on how to repel "a joint offensive by Somali and African Union troops aimed at dislodging [al-Shabab] from their nearby strongholds."

CBS News has a bit of background on previous U.S. action in Somalia:

"A U.S. missile strike in January killed a high-ranking intelligence officer for al-Shabab, and last October a vehicle carrying senior members of the group was hit in a U.S. strike that killed al-Shabab's top explosives expert.

"The latest U.S. action comes after Somalia's government forces regained control of a high-security prison in the capital that was attacked on Sunday by seven heavily armed suspected Islamic militants who attempted to free other extremists held there. The Pentagon statement did not indicate whether the U.S. action was related to the prison attack.

"Somali officials said all the seven attackers, three government soldiers and two civilians were killed. Mogadishu's Godka Jilacow prison is an interrogation center for Somalia's intelligence agency, and many suspected militants are believed to be held in underground cells there."

As for background on al-Shabab, here's a brief primer that was written after the militant group took responsibility for an attack on a Kenyan mall that left dozens dead.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.
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