Skip to main content

Military strike in Somalia targeted Al-Shabaab leader, U.S. officials say

By Barbara Starr, CNN Pentagon Correspondent
January 28, 2014 -- Updated 1948 GMT (0348 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Officials: Strike in Somalia targeted Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane
  • The Pentagon has not confirmed whether Godane was killed
  • An October U.S. raid to capture an Al-Shabaab leader was aborted

(CNN) -- A U.S. military strike in southern Somalia Sunday was targeting Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of Al-Shabaab, the Somali-based group with ties to al Qaeda, according to three US officials.

A drone operated by the U.S. Defense Department fired a Hellfire missile at a vehicle killing those inside, the officials said. But as of Tuesday, the Pentagon was unable to confirm whether Godane was killed, although he was the intended target.

The military was authorized to try to kill Godane because of current intelligence indicating he posed an "imminent threat" against U.S. interests in the region, one official said.

"We have to be able to prove he was in the process of planning additional attacks," the official said. The official would not elaborate on what the intelligence might be.

U.S. target wanted terrorists in Africa
Details on daring terror raids

The officials confirmed this information in response to questioning from CNN, but declined to speak on the record because of the sensitivity of the situation.

Officially, the Pentagon has only described the target of Sunday's strike as a "senior leader" affiliated with al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab.

Godane has been a driving force behind Al-Shabaab declaring its affiliation to al Qaeda and has pressed for the group to launch attacks beyond Somalia.

In recent years, U.S. officials had considered Al-Shabaab to be diminished in strength, but after the attack at the Westgate shopping mall in Kenya last year, officials have worried the group has demonstrated a renewed capability.

The U.S. still sees the limited Western presence in Somalia as a potential target for Al-Shabaab, but the concerns also focus on U.S. targets throughout the Horn of Africa, the official said.

U.S. officials are waiting for DNA evidence as well as intelligence gathered from local Somalis on the ground before they can confirm Godane was in the vehicle and killed by the drone strike.

Somali officials have said the man killed was Sahal Iskudhuq, an Al-Shabaab operative who was close to Godane and involved in planning attacks over the years. The latest strike comes after a failed raid last year by U.S. Navy SEALS aiming to capture a man known as Ikrimah, who U.S. officials said was a senior militant with ties to al Qaeda and Al-Shabaab.

Bergen: How Al-Shabaab picks its targets

Somalia warns telecom companies not to comply with Al-Shabaab Internet ban

Ex-U.S. soldier accused of trying to join al Shabaab gets 7 years

Syria, U.S. surveillance in focus in group's annual rights report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0242 GMT (1042 HKT)
Successful launch of lunar orbiter, seen as a precursor for a planned mission to the surface of the moon, marks significant advance for the country's space program.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1915 GMT (0315 HKT)
Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, shot while standing guard at Ottawa's National War Memorial, was known for his easygoing manner and smile.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Non-stop chatter about actress' appearance is nasty, cruel, hurtful, invasive and sexist.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
CEO's 30-min Putonghua chat is the perfect charm offensive for Facebook's last untapped market.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 0345 GMT (1145 HKT)
Chinese leaders want less odd architecture built in the country.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2058 GMT (0458 HKT)
Air New Zealand's new 'Hobbit' safety video stars Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood, elves and orcs.
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
A 15-year-old pregnant girl is rescued from slavery, only to be charged with having sex outside of marriage, shocked rights activists say -- a charge potentially punishable by death.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0333 GMT (1133 HKT)
After sushi and ramen, beef is on the list of must-eats for many visitors to Japan.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Airports judged on comfort, conveniences, cleanliness and customer service.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1748 GMT (0148 HKT)
Scientists use CT scans to recreate a life-size image of the ancient king.
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 0959 GMT (1759 HKT)
Despite billions spent on eradicating poppy production, Afghan farmers are growing bumper crops, a U.S. government report says.
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1021 GMT (1821 HKT)
Each day, CNN brings you an image capturing a moment to remember, defining the present in our changing world.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT