Voice of America (Washington, DC)

3 September 2014

Somalia: Somali Leaders Welcome U.S. Drone Strike Against Al-Shabab

Mogadishu — Somalia's government welcomed Monday's drone strike that targeted leaders of the militant group al-Shabab.

The U.S. military confirmed Tuesday that the air strike targeted al-Shabab's number-one commander, Ahmed Abdi Godane, but it's not yet confirmed whether he was killed.

Hours after the U.S. claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities in the capital, Mogadishu, held an urgent Cabinet meeting to discuss the latest security operations. After the meeting the officials said they welcomed the drone strike.

Government spokesman Ridwaan Hajji Abdiweli told reporters the government supports any operations against the militant group.

"The target of this operation were the key commanders of the al-Shabab," Abdiweli said. "Such attacks will continue because it's only the Somali government that has the authority to govern this nation and not terrorist groups like the al-Shabab."

Al-Shabab has neither confirmed nor denied reports that its top leader, Abdi Ahmed Godane, was killed in the attack. If confirmed, his death would be a serious setback for al-Shabab.

At least six people were reportedly killed in the drone strike, which took place in Sablale, an agricultural town in southern Somalia. The town is 60 kilometers from Barawe, the last remaining al-Shabab bastion in southern Somalia and a key port for the group.

Operation Indian Ocean

African Union forces in Somalia recently launched an offensive code named "Operation Indian Ocean."

The stated goal is to seize ports from al-Shabab, cutting off crucial sources of revenue.

The deputy chief of defense of the Somali National Army says the operation will dislodge al-Shabab from many parts of the country and return normalcy to areas they have controlled.

"Just as the Somali population has taken up arms against al-Shabab, we want to work together," said General Abdirizak Khalif Elmi, "because we have the right to live like everyone else in the world and for our children to live in peace and freedom.

Al-Shabab has lost control of the many cities and towns it once controlled but still carries out major attacks in Mogadishu. The group has attacked the presidential palace twice this year, and killed six members of parliament.

The U.S. government has designated Godane as a terrorist, and two years ago offered up to $7 million for information "that brings him to justice."

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