Group: Al-Qaida chief in Somalia killed
Ayro among 9 slain, but not immediately clear who was behind the attack
The Associated Press
updated 12:20 a.m. MT, Thurs., May. 1, 2008
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The man believed to be the head of al-Qaida in Somalia was killed in an overnight airstrike along with eight other people, an Islamic insurgent group said Thursday.
The spokesman for the Islamic al-Shabab militia, Sheik Muqtar Robow, said the strike killed Aden Hashi Ayro, his brother and seven others at his house in the central Somali town of Dusamareeb, about 300 miles north of Mogadishu. Six more people were wounded.
"Our brother martyr Aden Hashi, has received what he was looking for â€” death for the sake of Allah â€” at the hands of the United States," Robow told The Associated Press by phone.
"This would not deter us from continuing our holy war against Allah's enemy; we will be on the right way, that is why we are targeted. I call for our holy fighters to remain strong in their position and keep up the jihad," he added.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the airstrike.
Several strikes within last year
Over the past year, the U.S. military has attacked several suspected extremists in Somalia, most recently in March when the U.S. Navy fired at least one missile into a southern Somali town.
Somali government officials have said Ayro trained in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and is the head of al-Qaida's cell in Somalia.
He was a key figure in the al-Shabab movement, which aims to impose Islamic law and launches daily attacks on the shaky Somali government and their Ethiopian allies. Ayro also recently called for attacks on African peacekeepers in Somalia in a recording on an Islamic Web site.
â€˜A ball of smoke and flamesâ€™
Local resident Nur Geele said the attack occurred around 3 a.m.
"We heard a huge explosion and when we ran out of our house we saw a ball of smoke and flames coming out of the house where one of the leaders of al-Shabab Aden Hashi Ayro was staying," he said.
Al-Shabab is the armed wing of the Council of Islamic Courts movement. The State Department considers al-Shabab a terrorist organization.
The Council of Islamic Courts seized control of much of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu, in 2006. But troops loyal to the U.N.-backed interim Somali government and the allied Ethiopian army drove the group from power that December.
Ethiopia's archenemy, Eritrea, has offered assistance to the group, and it is re-emerging. In recent months it has briefly taken several towns, freeing prisoners and seizing weapons from government forces. The insurgents usually withdraw after a few hours but continue to target Ethiopian and Somali forces in an Iraq-style insurgency.
Breeding ground for terrorists?
The United States has repeatedly accused the Islamic group of harboring international terrorists linked to al-Qaida, which is allegedly responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
America is concerned Somalia is a breeding ground for terrorist groups, particularly after the Islamic militants briefly gained control of the south and Osama bin Laden declared his support for them.
Fighting between government troops and the insurgents claimed thousands of lives last year and drove hundreds of thousands from their homes.