Somalia confirms senior Shabaab leader's death

MOGADISHU (AA) – Somalia's intelligence agency on Wednesday announced the death of a senior leader of the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab group in an airstrike in the country's south.  

The agency said that senior Al-Shabaab leader Yusef Dheeq had been killed in an airstrike carried out by what it described as Somalia's "international friends" after coordinating with it.

The intelligence agency did not, however, say who exactly these "international friends" were.

It said that Dheeq – who was Al-Shabaab's intelligence chief and head of the group's external operations – was one of several Al-Shabaab leaders.

Al-Shabaab, for its part, has yet to comment on Dhaeeq's death.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced it had carried out an airstrike in Somalia on Jan. 31 that had specifically targeted Dheeq.

The drone strike occurred just south of capital Mogadishu at about 5pm local time, the Pentagon said.

"If successful, if he no longer breathes, then this is another significant blow to Al-Shabaab and their ability to conduct, plan, prepare for and strike targets inside and outside Somalia," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

The airstrike followed another one carried out in December that targeted Al-Shabaab intelligence chief Tahlil Abdishakur. A similar strike last September killed the group's former leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane.

The group has long tried to oust the western- and African Union (AU)-backed Mogadishu government.

Last year, government troops backed by AU forces made several gains against the militants, driving the group from several of its strongholds in Somalia.  

Despite its losses on the battlefield, however, Al-Shabaab has continued to stage deadly attacks on targets in east Africa, including in Kenya and Uganda. 

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