MOGADISHU, SOMALIA — A United States military strike hit a vehicle carrying senior members of an al-Qaida-linked militant group in Somalia on Monday, killing at least two people including the group’s top explosives expert, a militant and a government intelligence official said.
A senior United States military official says there was a U.S. counterterrorism strike against a terrorist target in Somalia Monday but would give no further details. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the strike publicly.
An al-Shabab member who gave his name as Abu Mohamed said one of those killed 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.
A Somali intelligence official in Mogadishu said the attack occurred as al-Shabab members went to intervene in a clan dispute. The official insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to share intelligence.
Earlier this month, United States Navy SEALs raided a coastal Somali town to take down a Kenyan al-Shabab member. The SEALs withdrew before capturing or killing their target. 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 United Nations office in Nairobi in 2011 and 2012.
If a drone strike in southern Somalia is confirmed, it will add evidence of the increasing importance Western powers view the counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia. The East African nation has seen several military attacks — often reported as drone strikes — in recent years.
Al-Shabab militants attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, in neighboring Kenya, on Sept. 21 with guns and grenades, killing at least 67 people. Al-Shabab promised more attacks on Kenyan soil unless Kenya withdraws its troops from Somalia.
Dozier contributed to this report from Washington, D.C.