Pentagon says Somali Islamist leader was target of airstrike

Pentagon officials say Ahmed Abdi Godane leader of the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab was target of U.S. strikes, but it is unclear if he was hit.

"The principal target was Mr. Godane," said Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary on Tuesday. "We're still assessing the results."

Kirby said both manned and unmanned aircrafts participated in the strikes, but there were no troops on the ground in the attack. There is no confirmation yet as to whether Godane was killed.

U.S. military forces attacked the extremist al-Shabaab network in Somalia Monday, the Pentagon confirmed.

A senior Somali intelligence official told the AP that a U.S. drone targeted al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane as he left a meeting of the group's top leaders. Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, is the group's spiritual leader under whose direction the Somali militants forged an alliance with al Qaeda.

If Godane has been killed two security experts said the leadership upheaval could bring al-Shabaab to break away from al Qaeda and instead pledge allegiance to the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

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The governor of Somalia's Lower Shabelle region, Abdiqadir Mohamed Nor, told The Associated Press that as government and African Union forces were heading to a town in Sablale district, they heard what sounded like an "earthquake" as drones struck al-Shabaab bases. "There was an airstrike near Sablale. We saw something," Nor said.

The U.S. has carried out several airstrikes in Somalia recent years.

A U.S. missile strike in January killed a high-ranking intelligence officer for al-Shabaab, and last October a vehicle carrying senior members of the group was hit in a U.S. strike that killed al-Shabaab's top explosives expert.

Al-Shabaab gained international notoriety a year ago this month when it attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, killing at least 67 people. The U.S. strike on Monday targeted Godane and other planners of the bloody assault on the mall, officials said.