US military increases footprint with targeted killing in Africa

The US military has carried out a missile strike in Somalia against a suspected militant leader with ties to al-Qaeda and al-Shabab. Local residents told the BBC that an al-Shabab commander and four others were killed but US officials say this has not been confirmed.  The strike was aimed at a vehicle in a remote area of southern Somalia, near the coastal town of Barawe.
Al-Shabab is the main al-Qaeda-linked group in East Africa.
The Pentagon says the target was a senior leader in the two organisations.
‘Another blow’
Local residents told BBC Somalia correspondent Mohamed Mwalimu that al-Shabab commander Sahal Iskudhuq and the others had been killed as they were travelling in a convoy which was hit by a missile.
Al-Shabab fighters cordoned off the area after the attack, they added.
The group has not yet commented.
Iskudhuq was said to be close to al-Shabab leader Ahmed Godane, with a large number of fighters under his control, our correspondent says.
The US has not released the name of their intended target.
The Somali presidency said on its Twitter account that his reported killing was “another blow” to al-Shabab.
The Somali government was “working with our partners to eliminate” al-Shabab, it added.
US officials did not confirm Mr Iskudhuq’s death, saying they were still “assessing the results of the operation”, AFP news agency reports.
The US has carried out several operations in Somalia, killing al-Shabab commander Aden Hashi Ayro in an air strike in 2008.
In October, US Navy Seals launched a failed raid in Barawe – a militant stronghold south of the capital, Mogadishu – to capture al-Shabab commander Abdukadir Mohamed Abdukadir, alias Ikrima.
Al-Shabab, which was responsible for the attack on a Kenyan shopping centre in September, has been weakened by an offensive by African Union forces on their haven in south-central Somalia.
The US has recently deepened its involvement in the country by sending a small unit of military advisers to Mogadishu.

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