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Top Somali militant, wanted by U.S., killed in infighting

By Melissa Gray, CNN
July 1, 2013 -- Updated 1032 GMT (1832 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Ibrahim Al Afghani was a top member of the Al-Shabaab militant group
  • The United States had a $5 million bounty on his head
  • Fighting between two Al-Shabaab factions began about a month ago
  • The group denies a split and blames the reports on local media

(CNN) -- A senior Somali militant who had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head has been killed in infighting among members of the al Qaeda-aligned group Al-Shabaab, a spokesman for the group said Saturday.

Ibrahim Al Afghani, a senior member of Al-Shabaab, was killed along with another top member, Moalim Burhan, in a shootout between two factions of the group June 20, spokesman Abu Musab said.

Al Afghani was wanted for terrorism by the U.S. State Department, which offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his location.

A U.S. administration official said the United States believes the report of his death is true.

2012: The battle against al-Shabaab

It is the first time Al-Shabaab has confirmed the killing of two of its most senior members.

The internal fighting in Al-Shabaab is between two groups, one loyal to founding member Ahmed Godane and another, smaller faction that supports foreign jihadists in Somalia. It began about a month ago when a member of the smaller group was targeted in a tea shop, allegedly by members from the other side.

Al Afghani and Burhan were both members of the smaller faction.

The main Al-Shabaab group denies there is infighting and blames reports of a split on local media.

Musab said the two men were killed when Al-Shabaab fighters tried to arrest them for supporting foreign jihadists and the pair fought back. He said Al Afghani and Burhan were not killed intentionally.

Residents of the town where the men were killed described heavy fighting between opposing sides of Al-Shabaab. They told the private Shabelle Media Network that they fear war between the two factions could break out at any time.

In addition to the killing of the two, a prominent Somali militant leader was arrested by pro-government forces and turned over to the government in Mogadishu.

Hassan Dahir Aweys was detained this month.

In 2012: U.S. puts bounties on 7 key members of Somali terror group

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

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