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.

al-Shabab fighters sit on a truck as they patrol in Mogadishu, Somalia
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.

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“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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