The Pentagon hasconfirmedthat Ahmed Godane was killed in the U.S. airstrike that targeted the Al Shabaab leader on September 2nd. Godane was in charge of one of Al Qaeda’s most dangerous affiliates, a group that mutated from a local insurgency to a trans-national jihadist movement capable of striking beyond Somalia’s borders and attracting foreign fighters from around the world.
“Godane’s removal is a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest al-Qaida affiliate in Africa,” White House Press Secretary Josh Ernest said in a statement released on September 5th.
Shabaab pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda in February of 2012. Since then, Shabaab has been repelled from most of Somalia’s major cities, while still pulling off terrorist attacks in Kenya and Djibouti and throughout Somalia as well. Shabaab is responsible for some of the largest and highest-profile terrorist attacks in East Africa, bombing several World Cup watch parties in the Ugandan capital of Kampala in 2010, and killing scores of people in an assault on an upscale Nairobi shopping mall in September of 2013.
Godane, who had been consolidating power within Al Shabaab in recent years, pushed the group towards ever more ambitious acts of terrorism. Most recently, they had promised to kill every single member of Somalia’s parliament; Shabaab has assasinated six lawmakers in 2014.
Godane’s death has the potential to fracture the group — he wasn’t grooming a successor, and has spent the past few years wiping out his internal enemies.
But his death won’t end terrorism in a still-chaotic Somalia, and Shabaab has been alarmingly resilient in the face of over a half-decade of international efforts to defeat it. Even without the leadership of one of the major terrorist figures in Africa, the group still has a large safe-haven in a country whose nascent government has had to depend on U.S. airstrikes and a large African Union military coalition to maintain order.
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