Somalia on high alert after Shebab leader confirmed dead

Somalia on high alert after Shebab leader confirmed dead

Somalia's government warned today of a wave of retaliatory attacks by the country's Al-Qaeda- linked Shebab rebels after their leader was confirmed to have been killed in a US air strike.

The Horn of Africa nation's president also offered Shebab fighters the chance to lay down their arms and seize on a 45-day amnesty, telling them government troops and the African Union's AMISOM force was on the brink of overrunning their territory.

Yesterday the Pentagon confirmed that Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of Al-Qaeda's main affiliate in Africa, perished in an attack on Monday in which US drones and manned aircraft rained Hellfire missiles and laser-guided bombs on a gathering of Shebab commanders.

There was no comment from the Shebab, who throughout the week have refused to confirm or deny reports of Godance's death. Somalia's national security minister said he believed they were now bent on revenge.

"Security agencies have obtained information indicating that Al-Shebab is now planning to carry out desperate attacks against medical facilities, education centres and other government facilities," Kalif Ahmed Ereg told reporters.

"The security forces are ready to counter their attacks and we call on people to help the security forces in standing against violent acts," he said, adding nevertheless that "we congratulate the Somali people" on Godane's death.

Godane has been fighting to overthrow the war-torn country's internationally-backed government, carrying out a wave of suicide bombings, brazen commando attacks, assassinations and kidnappings.

Godane, 37, who reportedly trained in Afghanistan with the Taliban, had also overseen the group's transformation from local insurgency to major regional guerrilla threat, widening the group's reach with attacks in countries that contribute to AMISOM.

He claimed responsibility for the July 2010 bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala that killed 74 people, and the group also claimed the September 2013 massacre in the Kenyan capital's Westgate mall, a four-day seige in which at least 67 people were killed.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Godane's demise represented "a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest Al-Qaeda affiliate in Africa" and that the operation to kill him came after "years of painstaking work by our intelligence, military and law enforcement professionals."

US officials did not specify how Godane's death was confirmed, but in similar cases in the past, US intelligence agencies have tested DNA samples and used information gleaned from eavesdropping.

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