Airstrike targets Al-Shabaab leader in southern Somalia

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An airstrike targeted Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Diriye alias Abu Ubaidah, multiple sources told Garowe Online, in the latest pursuit against the militants who control large swathes of rural central and southern regions of the country.

The Al-Shabaab militants have heightened attacks against military offices, senior government officials, and members of the public throughout Ramadan, but the security teams have activated surveillance in strategic areas across the Horn of Africa nation.

According to sources, the airstrike, whose details remain scanty, was initiated in the vicinity of Sablaale town, Lower Shabelle region, about 200 km southwest of the capital Mogadishu Somalia. The al-Shabaab leader is believed to be hiding in the region.

Abu Ubaidah has been in charge of Al-Shabaab for the last nine years after the death of Ahmed Godane, who was killed in a US airstrike. In recent weeks, Al-Shabaab is said to be embroiled in internal wrangles, with Mahad Karate, the group's finance officer keen to topple Ubaidah.

So fierce has been the battle that the group has started losing strategic areas to the Somali National Army (SNA) which is closely working with the US Africa Command and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) teams.

It is not clear who activated the airstrike but the US Africa Command denied the reports, arguing that it last targeted Al-Shabaab on March 10th. However, Turkey has recently been undertaking airstrikes in Somalia as an assistance to the friendly country.

The government of Somalia has heightened operations against the Al-Shabaab, with the first phase leaving at least 3,000 militants dead. The second phase is set to begin in Jubaland and Southwest states in the country amid the ongoing withdrawal of ATMIS soldiers.

Already, over 5,000 ATMIS soldiers have left Somalia and another 6,000 are scheduled to leave by June this year. Somalia insists that it can handle security responsibilities in the country, despite often asking for reinforcement.

GAROWE ONLINE

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