US Africa Command (AFRICOM) on Monday said that the US launched an airstrike in Somalia on October 1 and said the action killed a senior al-Shabaab leader.
AFRICOM didn’t name the target in its press release, but the US-backed Mogadishu-based government said Abdullahi Nadir, a co-founder of al-Shabaab, was killed in an operation the same day.
AFRICOM claimed that its “initial assessment” found that no civilians were killed or injured. But the Pentagon is notorious for undercounting civilian casualties, especially in its operations in Somalia. The airstrike was launched near the town of Jilib, which is about 230 miles southwest of Mogadishu.
The Somali government’s Information Ministry said that Nadir was al-Shabaab’s “chief prosecutor” and that he was in line to replace the group’s leader, Ahmed Diriye, who is sick.
The operation comes as there has been heavy fighting in Somalia. Al-Shabaab launched a major attack on a local government building in the central Hiiran region on Monday, killing 20 people and wounding 36 more.
The Somali government has reported recent gains in central Somalia, and US airstrikes in support of government forces have become more frequent. The last known US airstrike in Somalia took place on September 18 in the Hiiran region. AFRICOM said the bombing killed 27 al-Shabaab fighters.
The US air war against al-Shabaab has escalated since President Biden ordered up to 500 troops to deploy to Somalia back in May.
The US military portrays al-Shabaab as a major threat due to its size and affiliation with al-Qaeda. But the group was born out of a US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia that was launched in 2006, and al-Shabaab didn’t declare loyalty to al-Qaeda until 2012, after years of fighting the US and its proxies.