The Somali government says the leader of al-Shabab in the Lower Shabelle region and three of his associates have been killed in a raid in the village of Barire.
The Somali government identified the man as Moalin Osman Abdi Badil. In a statement by the Information Ministry the government says the operation on May 5 was conducted by the Somali national security forces.
The Somali government says the death the al-Shabab leader Badil “significantly disrupts” the group’s ability to operate in the Lower Shabelle region.
“The operation marks a turning point in our fight for security,” the statement read.
The Somali statement did not mention if U.S. were involved in the operation in Barire. Last Friday, the U.S. said a Navy SEAL was killed an operation to ‘advice and assist” the Somali national army in the same area.
US Navy SEAL killed
The U.S. Navy SEAL killed was identified as Senior Chief Special Warfare Operator Kyle Milliken. The 38-year-old is the first American service member killed in combat in the war-torn country since a deadly battle in 1993 — the clash that inspired the movie Black Hawk Down. At least two other Navy SEALs and an interpreter were wounded in the recent attack in the village of Barire, west of Mogadishu.
“This was a Somali mission,” Navy Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters Friday. American forces were “operating in support of” the Somali units, in an attack targeting a compound associated with attacks on nearby facilities used by both U.S. and Somali forces, he added.
A former Somali army commander who is familiar with U.S. operations told VOA Somali he believes there was a small number of special U.S. forces and helicopters that accompanied Somali special forces to a targeted location.
Meanwhile, al-Shabab has published purported photos of items they said were left behind by the U.S. forces at the scene including a small-sized American flag, military clothes, a glove and electronic kits marked Fort Lauderdale. One of the photos also showed blood stains on the ground.
Security sources and officials in the Lower Shabelle region say Friday’s attack was led by Somalia’s Danab commando team, accompanied by U.S. special forces. Danab or “lightening” in English are Somali commandos trained by the US forces.
Last month, dozens of American soldiers deployed to Mogadishu for a separate mission to train and equip Somali and AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) forces fighting extremism in Somalia, U.S. military officials told VOA.
Somali officials say more than 500 Somalia commandos have been trained by the U.S., and the Somali government has said it wants to increase the number of trained commandos to 4,000.
Carla Babb contributed to this report.