Washington, Jan 1: The US military on Wednesday confirmed killing the intelligence chief of Somalia's Shebab militants in an air strike this week, saying it dealt a setback to the Al-Qaeda-linked group.
Somalia's government had already announced that the Shebab figure had been taken out in what it called a "joint" operation.
"The Department of Defense has confirmed that Tahlil Abdishakur, chief of al-Shebab's intelligence and security wing, was killed in an airstrike on December 29th," the Pentagon said in a statement. The strike near Saakow was carried out by "unmanned aircraft," it said.
"Working from actionable intelligence, these forces successfully struck with several Hellfire missiles a vehicle carrying Tahlil." Tahlil was in charge of Shebab's external operations and the Pentagon said his death "will significantly impact" the group's ability to conduct attacks against the Somali government, its people and US allies and interests in the region.
Washington has consistently targeted senior figures in Shebab, and its previous leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, was killed in a US air strike in September.
The Shebab emerged from the Islamic Courts Union that controlled Mogadishu in 2006 before being pushed out by Ethiopian forces.
The group, however, still controls vast rural areas from where they launch regular attacks against African Union troops and the country's internationally-backed government.
A small team of US military advisers working out of Somalia and Washington has staged some raids by special operations forces against Shebab militants.