AU mission aiding Mogadishu says more troops and resources needed to land final blow to armed group.
A US military strike has hit a car carrying senior members of the al-Shabab armed group in Somalia, killing at least two people including the group’s chief explosives expert, according to local Somali and US government sources.
Preliminary evidence collected by the US military indicated that Monday’s attack killed its intended target, Ibrahim Ali, an explosives specialist known for his skill in building and using homemade bombs and suicide vests, the New York Times reported quoting a US Defence Department official.
“He’s been identified as someone we’ve been tracking for a long time,” the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the mission was conducted by the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, told the US newspaper.
An al-Shabab member who gave his name as Abu Mohamed said one of those killed in Monday’s attack was al-Shabab’s top explosives expert, known as Anta.
He said a drone fired at the car in Somalia’s Middle Juba region.
It was not clear how Mohamed would know it was a drone strike, except that he said no attack helicopters were seen.
Four witnesses at the scene confirmed the strike to Al Jazeera and said that both fighters killed were Somali men.
“It was after afternoon prayers between 1:30pm and 2pm when I heard a loud bang. Just one big bang,” a witness from Jilib told Al Jazeera.
“I came to the scene shortly after. I saw two dead bodies. Then al-Shabab fighters came to scene and took the bodies from the Suzuki vehicle. It was a drone strike.”
A Somali intelligence official in Mogadishu said the attack was launched as al-Shabab members went to intervene in a clan dispute.
The official insisted on anonymity because he is not authorised to share intelligence.
Although the US does not report its activities in Somalia, drones have been used in recent years to kill Somali and foreign al-Shabab fighters.
The Horn of Africa country has seen several military attacks – often reported as drone strikes – in recent years.
Al-Shabab attacked a shopping centre in Nairobi, in neighbouring Kenya, on September 21 with guns and grenades, killing at least 67 people.
It has promised more attacks on Kenyan soil unless Kenya withdraws its troops from Somalia.
Following the Nairobi attack, US Navy SEALs raided a coastal Somali town in an attempt to kill a Kenyan al-Shabab member. The SEALs failed to capture or kill their target after meeting resistance from al-Shabab fighters.
The target of that attack – Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, known as Ikrima – was identified as the lead planner of a plot by al-Shabab to attack Kenya’s parliament building and the UN office in Nairobi in 2011 and 2012.
Al-Shabab is known to have foreign fighters in their ranks.