U.S. airstrike in Somalia killed a senior Shabab leader, officials say

A U.S. airstrike killed a senior Shabab leader in Somalia, according to U.S. and Somali officials

A senior Shabab militia leader was killed by a U.S. airstrike in southwestern Somalia, according to U.S. and Somali officials.

Somalia's National Intelligence and Security Agency identified the slain man Tuesday as Abdishakur, also known as Tahliil. In a statement, the agency said he was the head of a Shabab unit believed responsible for suicide attacks in Mogadishu, the country's capital.

The Pentagon said Monday it had launched an airstrike against a “senior Shabab leader” near the town of Saakow, northeast of the Shabab stronghold of Kismayo. Officials at that time did not identify the target or say whether the strike had succeeded.

A U.S. defense official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, confirmed Tuesday that Abdishakur was the target of the attack and was killed.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told MSNBC that the military was still assessing results but had “no indications whatsoever so far of any civilian causalities or collateral damage as a result of the strike that we took.”

The airstrike underscored the Obama administration's attempts to help contain the Islamist insurgency that has threatened the U.S.-allied government in Mogadishu and has spilled over into neighboring Kenya. 

Shabab, which controls a large swath of rural Somalia, has been trying to regain power since it was driven out of Mogadishu and the port city of Kismayo by African Union troops in 2011 and 2012.

In recent months, Shabab has claimed responsibility for lethal attacks on coastal resort areas in Kenya as well as a Dec. 3 suicide bombing of a United Nations convoy near Mogadishu's airport.

A U.S. airstrike in early September killed Shabab's top commander, Ahmed Abdi Godane, as he traveled in a vehicle south of Mogadishu.

U.S. officials believed Godane, 37, was responsible for steering Shabab into closer alignment with Al Qaeda and its more global, anti-Western direction after he took over the militia in 2008. The group had previously focused attacks on Somali government forces.

Under Godane, Shabab gunmen conducted executions, amputations and other violence against those who didn't share their harsh interpretation of Islam. The group alienated moderate Somali Muslims and accelerated the flight of refugees and asylum-seekers.

Internal resistance to the militia intensified after Shabab gunmen blocked Western humanitarian aid to Somalia during a 2011 famine.

The militia also claimed responsibility for the bloody September 2013 attack in the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya. Some 67 people were killed, including the four gunmen, and more than 175 were reported wounded.

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