Heavy explosions rocked the central Somali town of Beledweyne, according to witnesses.
Residents told a VOA reporter in Beledweyne that two car bombs targeted Lamagalay, the local government headquarters in the eastern district. Lamagalay is where the offices of the deputy leader of Hirshabelle state, the governor of Hiran region and other local government officials are located. Sources say heavy casualties are feared following the attack.
Beledweyne, about 337 kilometers north of Mogadishu, has been the center of a recent local community mobilization against the Islamist militant group al-Shabab. Local officials including the governor of Hiran region, Ali Jeyte Osman, led community forces who fought alongside Somali government forces, seizing dozens of villages from al-Shabab.
Monday’s explosions came hours after the Somali government on Sunday evening reported that a senior al-Shabab official was killed in an operation in Haramka area in Middle Jubba region on October 1.
In a statement, the Ministry of Information said al-Shabab co-founder Abdullahi Nadir was killed in an operation by the national forces in collaboration with international partner forces.
Abdullahi Nadir, also known as Abdullahi Yare, is a senior al-Shabab official who held multiple posts within the group including the media, finance and preaching or “Da’wah” departments. Nadir has been a close ally of the late al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane who was killed in a U.S. strike in September 2014, and the current emir Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah. The United States put $3 million bounty on Nadir’s head and $6 million on Ubaidah’s head.
Haramka is an area controlled by al-Shabab, an indication that the operation against Nadir likely involved airstrikes. The U.S. Africa Command, which conducts airstrikes against al-Shabab, has not yet commented.
And most recently, Somalia’s Interior Minister Ahmed Moallim Fiqi told local television that Turkey has “joined” in providing air support to the Somali government. Fiqi did not specify operations or specific dates for Turkish participation in attacks against al-Shabab. The Turkish government is yet to confirm the reports.
Somalia Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur hailed the reported killing of Abdullahi Nadir. He hinted that the reported killing of Nadir may have been retaliation for those killed by al-Shabab.
He said the killing of Abdullahi Nadir is the beginning of attacks in response to the killing of late Mogadishu police chief Brigadier General Farhan Mohamoud Adan who was killed Friday by an al-Shabab improvised explosive device, or an IED, near Mogadishu, and the killing of Elmi Hagar Gure in an al-Shabab attack near Moqokori town in Hiran region last week. Gure is a traditional elder who participated in the mobilization.
“Accountability is just beginning,” Nur posted on his official Facebook account in Somali before the explosions in Beledweyne.
Al-Shabab has not confirmed or denied the reported killing of Abdullahi Nadir.