SHAFAQNA (International Shia News Association)- The U.S. has confirmed one of the world’s top terror leaders, Ahmed Abdi Godane, the head of the Somalia-based Al Shabab, was killed in a U.S. strike this week.
Friday’s confirmation of his death was celebrated in Somalia, where the Shabab has lost most of its local support and territory in recent years, but remains East Africa’s most dangerous Al Qaeda affiliate.
Godane had claimed responsibility for last September’s attack on the Nairobi Westgate Mall, which killed more than 65, including two Canadians and sanctioned dozens bombings inside Somalia over the last six years.
It had been rumoured since the Monday airstrike in Somalia’s southern Lower Shabelle region that Godane was among the dead.
A White House statement Friday called Godane’s death a “major symbolic and operational loss to Al Shabab.” The U.S. had offered $7 million for information leading to his capture after Godane officially pledged his group’s allegiance to Al Qaeda in 2012.
Although the Shabab has other leaders within its ranks, including many Kenyan members such as “Ikrima” who the U.S. has unsuccessfully targeted in the past, Godane’s death is significant.
“Al Shabab will never again be the same as it was under his leadership,” Mogadishu-based analyst Abdi Aynte wrote this week, arguing that Godane’s despotic rule weakened the group. “(I)t is difficult to imagine Al Shabab remaining a cohesive entity. He made no obvious attempts to groom a successor.”
Godane’s death could also spark an exodus of young Somali jihadists into Syria and Iraq, as the Islamic State (or ISIS) gains global notoriety. Security services are already concerned with the prevalence of ISIS recruits who are of Somali heritage from North America, Europe and Australia.