A senior al-Shabaab commander with a multimillion-dollar bounty on his head has been killed by a US airstrike, according to state radio.
Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud – a senior member of the extremist group’s executive council since its founding in 2008, also linked to Al-Qaeda – died after an American attack in Somalia’s southern Jubba region on 22 February, the report said on Saturday.
While the BBC reported that Mahamoud’s family had also confirmed his death, it was not clear why the news had only emerged more than a fortnight later.
According to the Somali state broadcast, Mahamoud was al-Shabaab’s head of operations. But earlier reports had suggested that Mahamoud, also known by the alias Bashir Qorgab, had been stripped of his rank in the group weeks before the allegedly fatal airstrike, over a disagreement about attacking civilians.
In December, a truck bombing in Mogadishu killed at least 80 people and left dozens more wounded. It was the Islamist group’s deadliest attack since 2017, although during that period, increasing numbers of smaller-scale attacks had cost hundreds of civilians their lives.
Following an outpouring of public anger, grief and protest in the capital, Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency said on 3 February that Mahamoud and Mahad Karate had been fired by leader Ahmed Diriye after asking him to stop targeting civilians.
In the wake of the announcement of Mahamoud’s death, the US Department of Defence and Somalia’s information minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareye could not be reached to verify the broadcast.
More than a decade ago, the US government announced a reward of $5m for information relating to Mahamoud’s whereabouts. According to official US cables published by Wikileaks, he had also co-ordinated Al-Qaeda activity in Somalia since 2007.
Since 2008, al-Shabaab has been fighting to topple Somalia’s central government and establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
The group’s campaign of bombings and gun attacks has targeted Somali military bases and civilian infrastructure including hotels, bars and schools in both Somalia and other regional countries.
The US frequently carries out air strikes in Somalia aimed against al-Shaabab, aimed at degrading their capabilities and ultimately defeating them.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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