MOGADISHU, Somalia — A U.S. military strike hit a vehicle carrying senior members of an al-
Qaeda-linked militant organization in Somalia on Monday, killing at least two people, including the group’s top explosives expert, a militant and a government intelligence official said.
A senior U.S. military official said a counterterrorism strike was launched against a target in Somalia on Monday but would give no further details. The official, who was not authorized to discuss the attack publicly, spoke on the condition of anonymity.
An al-Shabab member who gave his name as Abu Mohamed said one of those killed was the militant group’s top explosives expert, known as Anta. He said a missile fired by a drone struck a car in southern Somalia’s Middle Juba region. It was not clear how Abu Mohamed could be sure that it was a drone strike, except that he said no attack helicopters were seen.
A Somali intelligence official in Mogadishu said the attack occurred as al-Shabab members went to intervene in a clan dispute. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to share intelligence.
This month, U.S. Navy SEALs raided a coastal Somali town in pursuit of a Kenyan al-Shabab member. The SEALs withdrew before capturing or killing their target — Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, known as Ikrima. He was identified as the lead planner of an al-Shabab plot to attack Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations’ office in Nairobi in 2011 and 2012.
If a drone strike in southern Somalia is confirmed, it will further illustrate the increasing importance placed by Western powers on counterterrorism operations in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia. Suspected U.S. drone strikes have been reported in the East African nation in recent years.
Al-Shabab militants attacked the upscale Westgate mall in Nairobi, in neighboring Kenya, on Sept. 21 with guns and grenades, killing at least 67 people over four days. Al-Shabab has promised more attacks on Kenyan soil unless the Nairobi government withdraws its troops from Somalia.