WASHINGTON - A U.S. drone strike reportedly has killed a key al-Shabab commander in southern Somalia, officials tell VOA.
Local sources said the strike on Friday targeted a vehicle in which several al-Shabab officials were traveling near Kunya Barrow village in the southern Somali region of Lower Shabelle.
"I can confirm that the airstrike happened on Friday. It was carried out by a suspected U.S. drone. The strike targeted al-Shabab officials. Our intelligence sources confirm that a top al-Shabab commander in charge of recruiting fighters for the militants was killed in the strike,” said Aden Omar, the district commissioner of Barawe town in the Lower Shabelle region.
He identified the dead officer as Abu-Xudeyfi, but local sources put his name as Sheekh Abdirahman Xudeyfi.
“The killed official was named Abu-Xudeyfi, probably his al-Shabab name; we are currently assessing if any other al-Shabab official was hit in the attack, and will provide additional information as appropriate," said Omar.
The news of the drone strike broke on Friday as Muslims across the world, including Somalis, were celebrating the festival of Eid al-Adha - Islam’s most revered observance.
Last month, a controversial joint raid involving U.S. troops in Somalia killed at least 10 people including three children in the village of Bariire in Lower Shabelle.
The incident caused a rift between the U.S.-backed Somali government and leaders of a powerful clan that claimed innocent farmers of their own were massacred.
In July, the U.S. military in Africa killed one of the militants’ top jihadists, Ali Muhammad Hussein, known as Ali Jabal, in a “successful kinetic strike.” Jabal oversaw al-Shabab’s operations in the capital city of Mogadishu and led forces across two regions in southern Somalia.
The latest strike comes a day after the Somali government asked the United States to provide "immediate military assistance” to prevent al-Shabab from transporting uranium to Iran.
A letter from Somali Foreign Minister Yusuf Garaad Omar to U.S. Ambassador to Somalia Stephen Schwartz, widely published by the Somali media on Friday, said the militant group had captured "critical surface exposed uranium deposits" in the central Somali region of Galmudug and intend to transport the uranium to Iran.
The authenticity of the letter was confirmed to VOA's Somali Service by the Somali ambassador to the U.S., Ahmed Isse Awad.
Months after U.S. President Donald Trump approved increased operations in Somalia, the U.S. military supporting special forces of the Somali National Army intensified its operations in the region. A U.S. Navy SEAL was killed in one of the operations in May.
Al-Shabab is waging war on the Western-backed Somali government in Mogadishu. Several dozen U.S. troops are deployed in Somalia in an advise-and-assist capacity, and U.S. security advisers regularly call in airstrikes on al-Shabab leaders and training camps.