In a recent development, the United States has carried out an airstrike targeting the head of external operations for the militant group Al-Shabab in Somalia, according to reliable sources, including a former Al-Shabab official who defected and spoke to VOA Somali.
The intended target of the airstrike was identified as Osman Mohamed Abdi, widely known as Moalim Osman, a seasoned military commander within Al-Shabab, stated Omar Mohamed Abu Ayan, a former member of the group.
The Somalia Ministry of Information also confirmed the name and position of the targeted individual in a statement released on Tuesday, emphasizing that Moalim Osman is responsible for facilitating the entry of foreign fighters into Somalia to support Al-Shabab’s activities.
Although initial reports suggested that Moalim Osman had been injured in the airstrike, a spokesperson for the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) revealed that he appeared to have survived the attack.
Lieutenant Commander Timothy S. Pietrack, an AFRICOM spokesman, disclosed to VOA that a comprehensive battle damage assessment conducted by the command concluded that one Al-Shabab leader sustained injuries as a result of the operation.
The strike, which took place on Saturday, targeted Jilib, a prominent stronghold of Al-Shabab located approximately 385 kilometers southwest of Mogadishu.
AFRICOM released a statement asserting that their preliminary assessment indicates no civilian casualties occurred during the operation.
According to an anonymous Somali official familiar with the matter, Moalim Osman has occupied various positions within Al-Shabab, including that of defense chief.
The official further revealed that Moalim Osman played a significant role in planning the January 2016 attack on an African Union military base in El Adde, manned by Kenyan forces.
This assault remains the deadliest militant attack on peacekeepers in Somalia and holds particular significance as El Adde is Moalim Osman’s hometown, as per Somali security sources.
Reports from the media indicate that the death toll from the attack exceeded 140 Kenyan troops, a figure unchallenged by the Kenyan government, prompting the withdrawal of Kenyan forces from the base.
Somali officials also attribute Moalim Osman with overseeing Al-Shabab’s operations in Kenya, where the group has conducted numerous attacks against security forces.
Additionally, he reportedly directed Al-Shabab’s incursion into eastern Ethiopia in July of last year.
Interestingly, the airstrike occurred while Mahad Salad, the director of Somalia’s National Intelligence and Security Agency, was in the United States for meetings with officials from the Pentagon, CIA, and FBI.
The purpose of these discussions, according to an undisclosed source familiar with the visit, was to enhance security and counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.