The United States carried out a drone strike last week in Somalia, targeting Abdullahi Haji Da’ud, a senior leader in the al-Shabab militant group, the Pentagon announced Wednesday. 

The Defense Department is still assessing whether the May 27 strike killed Da’ud. Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said in a statement that, if confirmed, his death “will disrupt near-term attack planning, potentially saving many innocent lives.”

According to Cook, Da’ud was one of Shabab’s “senior military planners” and helped coordinate attacks in Somalia, Kenya and Uganda.

He held several positions of authority within the terrorist organization over the years, including head of the Amniyat, al-Shabaab’s security and intelligence branch,” Cook said. 

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On Wednesday, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for an attack on a downtown Mogadishu hotel. The car bomb, which detonated outside the hotel’s gate, killed at least 10 people.

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In March, the Pentagon carried out a series of strikes on al-Shabab, one of which targeted Hassan Ali Dhoore, a senior leader in the organization and also a member of al-Qaeda. Earlier that month, a series of U.S. airstrikes killed upwards of 150 people after targeting what U.S. officials described as an al-Shabab training camp. The strike, which took place in Raso, a village approximately 120 miles north of Mogadishu, was the deadliest strike on the terror group in more than a decade. It is unclear whether there were any civilian casualties.

Al-Shabab, which means “the youth” in Arabic, pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012 and despite the rise and appeal of the Islamic State, the group has remained mostly insulated from the rival terrorist organization’s influence.

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The United States started striking al-Shabab in 2008. Before that, the United States had only targeted al-Qaeda figures in Somalia in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist  attacks. Despite the repeated killings of al-Shabab’s leadership, the organization has remained active throughout the region, ambushing African Union troops in both Somalia and Kenya and carrying out attacks on civilian targets, such as hotels and airliners.

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In 2013, al-Shabab attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people.

To help African countries combat al-Shabab, the United States maintains a small presence of roughly 50 troops, likely Special Operations forces, in Somalia that help advise and assist African Union troops stationed there. Deployed to Somalia since 2013, the U.S. detachment is the first American ground troop force in Somalia since Task Force Ranger left the country in 1993 after the Battle of Mogadishu in which 18 U.S. soldiers were killed.

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