Senior Shabaab leaders rumored killed in blast
Two of the top leaders in the al Qaeda-linked Shabaab are rumored to have been killed in a massive blast in a town near Mogadishu late last night. The origin of the blast is unknown, but it is thought to have been caused by a missiles fired by naval warships or unmanned US Predator drones.
Somali officials claimed that Ahmad Godane Abu Zubayr, Shabaab's spiritual leader [remember how many decried the killing of Sheik Yasin of Hamas by Israel a few years ago, on the grounds that Yasin was only Hamas' "spiritual leader"?], and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a top commander, were both killed in a massive blast in Afgoye, a town about 20 miles west of Mogadishu. The explosion took place at a "compound" known to be used by Shabaab, according to Sunatimes and Mareeg Online. Reuters claimed the blast took place at a "camp." Afgoye is under Shabaab control.
The rumor of the deaths of Abu Zubayr and Aweys has not been confirmed. Shabaab has not announced their deaths.
Local residents in Afgoye claimed that a high-level meeting of senior Shabaab commanders was taking place in the town.
"I am sure there was a meeting going on in the base near the orphanage. Armoured cars and expensive 4x4s were buzzing around," an Afgoye resident told Reuters.
At least two missiles are said to have detonated in Afgoye. The missiles are thought to have been launched by a warship off the coast of Somalia, or by unmanned US Predator or Reaper strike aircraft that are known to operate from bases in Ethiopia and Djibouti. US warships have launched cruise missile strikes against al Qaeda operatives in Somalia in the past.
Both Abu Zubayr and Aweys have been listed by the US as specially designated global terrorists for their links to al Qaeda. And both leaders have been previously targeted by US airstrikes. Abu Zubayr, who is also known as Ahmed Abdi Aw Mohamed, was rumored to have been wounded in a blast thought to have been caused by a US missile strike in Mogadishu in May 2009. The explosion killed 11 Shabaab fighters and three or four "foreign fighters."
Shabaab is currently fighting on two fronts against several African nations. Along with Somali troops, African Union forces made up of Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are battling Shabaab in the capital of Mogadishu, while the Kenyan military is moving forces toward the port city of Kismayo, Shabaab's de facto capital, and the town of Afmadow.
The Kenyan government invaded southern Somalia in mid-October and vowed to drive Shabaab from bases along the border. A Kenyan Army spokesman said that his country's forces would take control of Kismayo and would remain in the south until Shabaab was no longer a threat. The Kenyan advance in the south appears to have stalled, however. One month after the invasion, Kenyan troops have failed to take Afmadow, and have advanced only as far as Ras Kamboni on their way to Kismayo.