The Somali Islamist leader who ordered last year’s Westgate shopping mall massacre in Kenya is believed to have been killed in a US drone strike.
Ahmed Abde Godane, the leader of the al-Shabaab militant group, is thought to have been targeted by a salvo of missiles as he left a meeting of the group’s senior leaders on Monday night. The US military said it was still trying to verify whether the 37-year-old had died in the attack, but witnesses spoke of a sound like an “earthquake” as missiles hit a forested region in Somalia’s Sablale forest district, 105 miles south of Mogadishu.
Godane, who is one of al-Shabab’s most feared figures, gave his personal backing to last September’s Westgate atrocity, in which 67 people were killed when al-Shabab gunmen armed with grenades and assault rifles attacked a shopping mall in Nairobi.
In a statement released shortly after the attacks, he threatened further terrorist mayhem in Kenya unless it agreed to pull its troops out of Somalia, where they have been trying to oust al-Shabaab from its southern heartlands.
The attack was one of the worst terrorist acts in Kenyan history, and marked al-Shabaab’s arrival on the world stage as one a fully-fledged member of the international jihadist terror movement. Previously it had focused mainly on establishing a Taliban-style regime in Somalia, but under Godane, who pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda, it adopted a transnational agenda.