Top Somali militant killed in air strike

May 1, 2008

“Infidel planes bombed Dusamareb. Two of our important people, including Aden Hashi Ayro, were killed in the incident,” Mukhtar Robow Adumansur, a senior commander for the Islamist movement, told Reuters.

The leaders belonged to al Shabaab, the military wing of a sharia courts movement ousted at the end of 2006, that is on a U.S. list of terrorist organizations. The United States says Shabaab is linked to al Qaeda.

One resident said five Islamist fighters and a house maid were killed in the attack.

“An American plane bombed the house of al Shabaab leader Aden Hashi Ayro,” one resident told Reuters.

“I could see pieces of human bodies lying outside the house. It was difficult to go in because of heavily armed Islamists guarding the area.”

Another resident said the town was woken up by two loud explosions at about 2 a.m.

“When we came out, we saw a home in the neighborhood entirely destroyed by two missiles fired by planes flying over us. We counted four planes,” said Amina Warsame, a resident of the town that is in central Somalia.

Security and intelligence sources say Ayro trained in insurgency tactics in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

The U.S. military has launched several air strikes against suspected militants in Somalia over the past year.

The Pentagon in Washington had no immediate information on the attack.

Branded terrorists by Washington, al Shabaab has led an Iraq-style insurgency against the government and its Ethiopian allies since early 2007.

The insurgency began when the Islamic Courts Union, of which al Shabaab was a part, lost control of Mogadishu after a brief, six-month rule of south Somalia.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the conflict between the gunmen waging the Iraqi-style insurgency and Somali troops backed by Ethiopia soldiers, which a local rights group says killed 6,500 civilians in Somalia last year.