The Pentagon has confirmed a report that we brought to you on September 2, that Ahmed Abdi Godane, a leader of the al Shabaab Islamist group, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Somali, calling it a “major symbolic and operational loss” for the al Qaeda-affiliated militants.
Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon’s press secretary in a statement:
“We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al Shabaab, has been killed.”
Since taking charge of al Shabaab in 2008, Godane restyled the group as a global player in the al Qaeda network, carrying out bombings and suicide attacks in Somalia and elsewhere in the region, including the September 21, 2013 attack on Nairobi, Kenya’s Westgate Mall that killed 67 people.
Godane publicly claimed responsibility for the Westgate attack, saying it was revenge for Kenyan and Western involvement in Somalia and noting its proximity to the anniversary of the September 11, 2011 attacks on the United States.
His death leaves a gap in leadership and was seen as posing the biggest challenge to the group’s unity since it emerged as a fighting force eight years ago.
Abdi Ayante, director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu:
“What is likely to happen is a struggle for power.”
Matthew Olsen, director of the U.S. government’s National Counterterrorism Center:
“He was a strong leader of al Shabaab .. and has basically taken care of rivals pretty effectively.”
Barack Obama, U.S. President at a NATO Summit in Wales:
“We released today the fact that we have killed the leader of al Shabaab in Somalia.”
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Somali president:
“Those hwo choose to remain know their fate. Al Shabaab is collapsing. I say to the members of al Shabaab: Godane is dead and now is the chance for members of al Shabaab to embrce peace.”
Theo Dolan of the U.S. Institute of Peace:
“For Kenya, this means the very real threat of reprisal attacks by local al Shabaab offshoot groups and the potential for more coordinated violence in the longer term.”