Al-Shabab denies top leaders killed in US air strikes

Senior commander makes public appearance to deny claims he and another leader were killed in raids in southern Somalia.

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    Al-Shabab is fighting Somalia's internationally-recognised government [File pic: Mohamed Sheikh Nor/The Associated Press]
    Al-Shabab is fighting Somalia's internationally-recognised government [File pic: Mohamed Sheikh Nor/The Associated Press]

    Mogadishu, Somalia - A senior al-Shabab commander has made a public appearance to deny claims that he and another group leader were killed in US air strikes last week at a training camp in southern Somalia.

    Washington said on Monday it had carried out several strikes in Somalia's Hiiraan region, in which it claimed more than 150 of the al-Qaeda-linked group's fighters had been killed.


    READ MORE: Toll of US air strikes exaggerated, says al-Shabab


    Somali officials said later on Monday that five al-Shabab commanders had been killed in Saturday's attack, including Mohamed Mire, the group's Hiiraan governor, and Yusuf Ali Ugas, al-Shabab's former Hiiraan chief.

    But Mire appeared on Thursday in the village of Buqa Qabe - in the same province the air strikes took place - to dismiss the claims.

    "It is all lies. They said I was among those killed. But I'm here and doing well as you can see," he told a crowd that had gathered to see the public execution of a man the group accused of being a Somali government soldier.

    Air strikes 

    Al-Shabab, which is fighting Somalia's internationally recognised government, has recently attacked and overrun military bases belonging to the African Union peacekeeping mission, AMISOM.

    The US air strikes occurred at 14:00 GMT on Saturday at a camp about 130km from Belidogle airport in the Lower Shabelle region - a major base for AMISOM troops. American soldiers are also present at the Belidogle base.

    The al-Shabab fighters were training for a large-scale attack and posed an imminent threat to US and African Union forces in Somalia, according to the Pentagon.


    READ MORE: What does al-Shabab want?


    "It is all propaganda. America is losing this war and that is why they now have to resort to guerrilla tactic," Mire added, in reference to a Wednesday morning raid on the town of Awdhegle - 50km south of the capital Mogadishu - by joint US and Somali special forces.

    Somali officials said more than a dozen al-Shabab fighters were killed in the raid which involved two helicopters. Al-Shabab said only one of its fighters was killed.

    There was no way of independently verifying both claims.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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