MOGADISHU, Sept 6, (Agencies): Somalia’s government warned Saturday of a wave of retaliatory attacks by the country’s al- Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels after their leader was confirmed to have been killed in a US air strike. A commander of Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shebab, confirms that the leader of the terror group was killed in a US airstrike.
Abu Mohammed said Saturday the militants were meeting at an undisclosed location to pick the successor to Ahmed Abdi Godane. Godane and other al-Shebab officials were killed when a US airstrike hit two cars in southern Somalia on Monday. Asenior Somali intelligence officer, who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said Zakariya Ismael who has a $3 million bounty on his head, is one of the candidates to succeed Godane. Godane had publicly claimed al-Shebab was responsible for the deadly Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya. Al-Shebab is an Islamic extremist group aligned with al-Qaeda.
The Horn of Africa nation’s president also offered Shebab fighters a chance to lay down their arms and seize on a 45-day amnesty, telling them government troops and the African Union’s AMISOM force were on the brink of overrunning their territory. On Friday the Pentagon confirmed that Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of al- Qaeda’s main affiliate in Africa, perished in a Monday attack in which US drones and manned aircraft rained Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs on a gathering of Shebab commanders.
There was no comment from the Shebab, who throughout the week have refused to confirm or deny reports of Godance’s death. Somalia’s national security minister, however, said he believed they were now bent on revenge. “Security agencies have obtained information indicating that al-Shebab is now planning to carry out desperate attacks against medical facilities, education centres and other government facilities,” Kalif Ahmed Ereg told reporters. “The security forces are ready to counter their attacks and we call on people to help the security forces in standing against violent acts,” he said, adding nevertheless that “we congratulate the Somali people” on Godane’s death.
Godane has been fighting to overthrow the war-torn country’s internationally-backed government, carrying out a wave of suicide bombings, brazen commando attacks, assassinations and kidnappings. Godane, 37, who reportedly trained in Afghanistan with the Taleban, had also overseen the group’s transformation from local insurgency to major regional guerrilla threat, widening the group’s reach with attacks in countries that contribute to AMISOM. He claimed responsibility for the July 2010 bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala that killed 74 people, and the group also claimed the September 2013 massacre in the Kenyan capital’s Westgate mall, a fourday seige in which at least 67 people were killed.
Reacting to Godane’s death, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta offered his “heartfelt thanks” to the United States for “finally allowing us to begin our healing process”. He said the operation had provided “a small measure of closure” for victims of the Westgate attack.