Authorities in Somalia say a U.S. drone strike on Thursday killed a high-ranking member of the Islamist terrorist group al-Shabab, hours before the country’s leaders agreed on a plan for upcoming elections in which national security will be a major issue.
“U.S. Forces supporting Somali National Army (SNA) terminated a high-ranking member of the terrorist group [al-Shabab],” a Somali government statement issued Friday said.
The strike occurred near the southwestern Somali town of Kurtunwarey. It targeted al-Shabab while the group was preparing to launch an attack against Somali government forces, the statement released by government-run Radio Mogadishu said.
An unnamed senior member of the group’s local bomb-making and IED explosives unit was killed in the strike, VOA was told by a senior Somali commander who was not authorized to speak to the media.
U.S. forces in Africa also have confirmed the strike.
“In support of the Federal Government of Somalia, U.S. forces use a range of effective and appropriate methods to assist in the protection of the Somali people,” said a statement posted by the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) on Twitter.”
Together with partner and allied forces, U.S. Africa Command works on a daily basis to improve security conditions to enhance governance and economic development while preventing al-Shabab’s desire to expand their reach and further export violence.”
With AFRICOM confirmation, American Military News reported that the target “had a history of making explosives” and was reportedly working to place improvised explosive devices on a public road near Kurtunwarey at the time of the strike.
The strike comes as the militant group is attempting to retake control of Kurtunwarey, a strategic town whose control was reclaimed by African Union-backed Somali troops a week ago. The joint forces freed dozens of children in the process.