Senior Al-Shabaab commander injured in US drone strike
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A senior Al-Shabaab commander was the chief target in Saturday's drone strike by the US Africa Command in Jilib town, it has emerged, with a preliminary report showing that he was critically injured during the operation which was also backed by the federal troops of Somalia.
Without mentioning the name, the US Africa Command confirmed that a "senior Al-Shabaab commander" was critically injured in the operation. This was the first airstrike within the country in as many months and the US has been committed to help Somalia defeat terrorism.
"Following a comprehensive battle damage assessment, U.S.-AFRICOM has determined that one al-Shabab leader was injured as a result of the operation," Lieutenant Commander Timothy S. Pietrack, an AFRICOM spokesman, told VOA on Tuesday.
But in a tweet, Somalia's Ministry of Information confirmed that the injured leader was Osman Mohamed Abdi, known as Moallim Osman who was the target. The government accused him of being in charge of recruitment of foreign fighters to the group.
"Osman Mohamed Abdi, a senior leader of the terrorist group Al-Shabaab, was wounded in a joint operation carried out by the National Army and international allies in Jilib. Abdi was responsible for smuggling foreign terrorists into the country and spreading propaganda to recruit fighters," state media noted.
Also, former al-Shabab official Omar Mohamed Abu Ayan told VOA that veteran military commander Osman Mohamed Abdi was injured in the strike, adding that he is the head of external operations. He has also been authorizing attacks in foreign nations, the statement read.
On Saturday, the US activated the airstrike in Jilib town, the headquarters of Al-Shabaab militants, which is located about 385 kilometers Southwest of Mogadishu. "The command's initial assessment is that no civilians were injured or killed," an AFRICOM statement said.
Before being appointed as Al-Shabaab's head of external operations, Abdi served as defense chief of the group according to several sources. He has been on the target for a number of months, the US Africa Command said.
Somali officials also say he was involved in planning the group's January 2016 attack against an African Union military base manned by Kenyan forces in El Adde. It remains the deadliest militant attack on peacekeepers in Somalia and is the hometown of Moallim Osman, according to Somali security sources.
The El-Adde attack left at least 200 Kenya Defense Forces [KDF] soldiers serving in Sector II of ATMIS, then known as AMISOM, dead. The attack in 2016 would later be followed by another attack at Kulbiyow which left at least 90 KDF soldiers dead.
Somali officials say Moallim Osman's current role includes supervising al-Shabab attacks in Kenya, where for years the group has carried out strikes against security forces, and he directed al-Shabab's opportunistic incursion into eastern Ethiopia last July.
Kenya recently signed a pact with Somalia which will see KDF carry joint operations against Al-Shabaab along the border. For a long time, Kenya has been the target of the militants since the activation of Operation Linda Nchi in 2011, leading to Al-Shabaab's frequent retaliatory attacks.