High-Ranking Al-Shabaab Member Confirmed Killed in US Airstrike

A general view of the destruction at the Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi following an attack by the Somali group al-Shabaab in 2013 that killed 67 people. On Friday, Abdi Nur Mahd commonly known as Yusuf Dheeg who was involved in planning the attack was confirmed to have been killed in a U.S. airstrike last month. PHOTO: REUTERS

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NAIROBI, Kenya—The Somali government confirmed Friday that a high-ranking member of the al-Shabaab militant group was killed last month in a U.S. airstrike.

“The airstrike targeted a house where senior leaders of the group and newly trained fighters were gathering,” said Mohamed Yusuf, a spokesman for Somalia’s intelligence service. He said no civilians were killed.

He said Abdi Nur Mahdi, commonly known as Yusuf Dheeg, was killed in the Jan. 31 strike outside the southern town of Diinsoor.

The U.S. had said earlier in the week that the strike had targeted Mr. Dheeg—the group’s chief of external operations in charge of intelligence and security gathering.

“His death is a big blow to al-Shabaab’s external operations, which he used to run,” Mr. Yusuf said. He said Mr. Dheeg was involved in planning the September 2013 attack on a shopping mall in neighboring Kenya that killed some 67 people.

The U.S. has targeted Somali militants a number of times in recent years. In the most high-profile strike in September, U.S. planes killed the then-leader of al-Shabaab, Ahmed Godane.

The Somali government, with the help of African Union forces and the U.S., has been on an intense campaign to seize territory back from al-Shabaab over the past year. However, al-Shabaab still launches regular attacks in Somalia and has ramped up its strikes in Kenya.

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