US drone wounds top militants in Somalia: Report

Officials says militants were planning operations outside of Somalia. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: A US drone fired on two senior commanders of Somalia’s Shebab insurgency after they were found to have ties to al Qaeda, the Washington Post reported late Wednesday, citing US officials.

The strike last week is believed to have wounded the two leading militants and came amid increasing concern among US officials about growing ties between Shebab and the global terror network, the Post said.

“They (Shebab fighters) have become somewhat emboldened of late and, as a result, we have become more focused on inhibiting their activities,” it quoted an official as saying. “They were planning operations outside of Somalia.”

The Post said Somalia is now the sixth country in which the United States is reportedly using drone attacks to kill suspected militants, after Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen.

The US military could not immediately be reached for comment.

The official quoted by the Post said the two commanders had “direct ties” to Anwar al-Awlaqi, a charismatic American-born preacher believed to be hiding in his family’s native Yemen.

US aircraft and special forces have carried out covert attacks in the past in Somalia, but last week’s incident appeared to be the first drone strike, the Post said.

Last Thursday residents reported huge explosions near Kismayo, a southern port town controlled by Shebab, followed by the sound of aircraft.

A Shebab official in the area said his men had reported an aerial bombing raid on a Shebab base.

“The military aircraft of the enemy carried out an aerial bombardment on a base where some mujahedeen fighters were staying. Initial reports indicate several mujahedeen fighters including muhajirs (foreigners) died,” the official said, refusing to be named.

“We believe the aircraft belonged to the US,” he added.

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