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US Confirms Death of Al-Shabab Leader


African Union soldiers from Uganda sit on their tank as residents walk past in the town of Bulomarer, in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, Aug. 31, 2014.

African Union soldiers from Uganda sit on their tank as residents walk past in the town of Bulomarer, in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, Aug. 31, 2014.

The Pentagon has confirmed that U.S. airstrikes in Somalia earlier this week killed the leader of the al-Shabab terrorist group, Ahmed Godane.

It's taken four days, but the Pentagon is now certain Godane was killed after U.S. forces rained hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions onto an al-Shabab encampment and a vehicle.

“I think this will degrade their morale and hopefully it will also cause some internal strife as they try to determine who their next leader will be," said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren. "Of course, whoever their next leader is will immediately need to worry about his safety as well.”

Warren said the strike killed several other al-Shabab personnel in addition to Godane and that it was conducted in a very remote area of Somalia. The military is confident no civilians were killed.

U.S. President Barack Obama said the death of the al-Shabab leader was an example of America's deliberate approach to dismantling al-Qaida-affiliated groups. Speaking at the NATO summit in Wales, Obama warned Islamic State militants in the Middle East that they will face a similar fate.

“We are going to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. The same way we have gone after al-Qaida, the same way that we have gone after the al-Qaida affiliate in Somalia. We have been very systematic and methodical in going after these kinds of organizations that may threaten U.S. personnel and the homeland,” Obama said.

At the Pentagon, Colonel Warren was quick to point out the strong relationship the United States has with the Somali government.

"They’ve helped us quite a bit. We have to make that clear that it is the collaborative relationship with host nations that really allows us to bring the fight to the enemy," he said.

The Pentagon, however, would not discuss details of how much, if at all, it coordinated with the Somali government ahead of Monday's strike.

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    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Korea.

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