An air strike in southern Somalia has killed two senior commanders of the militant Islamist group, al-Shabab, residents have told the BBC.
The strike destroyed the vehicle the militants were traveling in between the towns of Jilib and Barawe, seen as a major base of al-Shabab, they said.
The U.S. launched a failed raid in Barawe earlier this month to capture an al-Shabab commander, the BBC reports.
Al-Shabab is the main al-Qaeda-linked group in East Africa.
A Kenyan military source said their troops had raided Jilib, and that there might have been some casualties. However, correspondents say it is unlikely that they carried out the air strike.
Residents of Jilib, 75 miles north of the port of Kismayo, told the BBC that it was probably a drone attack that killed the al-Shabab commanders.
One of those killed was al-Shabab’s top explosives expert, also known as Anta, a member of the group told the Associated Press.
Al-Shabab rebuilds forces in Somalia as African Union campaign stalls
According to the Guardian, troops from the African Union and the fledgling Somali national army are battling al-Shabab, the Islamist group notorious for carrying out beheadings, recruiting boys to fight and forcing girls into marriage. The group claimed responsibility for last month’s attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi, which claimed 70 victims.
Some analysts interpreted the Kenyan atrocity as a sign of weakness, the thrashings of a dying animal. But there are signs that al-Shabab is regrouping and evolving, recruiting members more quickly than it loses them and, in the words of Somalia’s president, becoming “an extended hand of al-Qaida.”
Officials admit that,after forcing al-Shabab out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 and Kismayo in 2012, the campaign against it has lost momentum and stalled. Military maps show swaths of red labeled “AS infested area,” while the African Union force, Amisom, lacks a single helicopter in a country similar in size to Afghanistan.
A series of propaganda photographs published on Somali websites last week, apparently from al-Shabab strongholds, show uniformed men riding through town on motorbikes and in pickup trucks, with banners celebrating the Westgate attack and, bizarrely, sporting contests such as a tug-of-war and an egg-and-spoon race. Children feature heavily in the images. “This is intended as a message they are still alive,” one Somali government official said.