The government of Somalia announced over the weekend that Abdullahi Nadir, a Somali Islamist extremist and one of the co-founders of the Al Shabaab terror group, had been killed following a joint operation with international partners.
The announcement, made by Somalia’s Information Ministry, came late on Sunday night, reporting that the strike had taken place the previous day. The statement indicated that Nadir had been the terror group’s highest judicial official and its de facto second-in-command and was being prepared to succeed its ailing leader, Ahmed Diriye.
“The government is grateful to the Somali people and international friends whose cooperation facilitated the killing of this leader,” the statement read, describing Nadir as a “thorn” and an “enemy of the Somali nation.” Although it did not specify which "international friends" had cooperated in the mission, the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) separately indicated in a statement that it had "killed an Al-Shabaab leader" during an airstrike on October 1.
Al Shabaab was formed in the mid-2000s as a wing of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), an Islamist umbrella organization that briefly governed Mogadishu, the Somali capital. The group continued to operate after the ICU’s collapse, carrying out a series of highly destructive suicide bombings and other terror attacks against the country’s transitional government. The group is perhaps best known outside of Somalia for its attack on the Westgate Shopping Mall in neighboring Kenya in 2013, which it claimed had been launched in retaliation for Kenya’s participation in the international coalition against it.
Al Shabaab is loosely affiliated with Al Qaeda and swore allegiance to its former leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, although it has continued to operate independently and some of its members sided instead with the Islamic State (ISIS) following its emergence in 2014.
Although Al Shabaab has largely been pushed out of Mogadishu, it remains influential in many areas of the Somali countryside, where its leaders have forged ties with local tribes and religious officials. Over the past half-decade, the Somali government failed to take coordinated action against the group due to internal power struggles. However, the administration of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who was elected in May following the country’s first elections in five years, has announced significant territorial gains against Al Shabaab since his accession to office.
Despite Mohamud’s progress, the group has continued to carry out attacks, including at least three over the past two weeks that killed more than twenty people.
Trevor Filseth is a current and foreign affairs writer for the National Interest.