Two Somali security officials confirmed on Monday that an American missile strike in southern Somalia on Sunday killed a senior Al-Shabaab commander who had masterminded suicide attacks.
According to Reuters, both intelligence sources and a Somali government spokesman named the target as Ahmed Mohamed Amey, a chemicals expert also known as Isku Dhuuq.
A U.S. official on Sunday said the missile strike occurred in a remote area near Barawe, a coastal rebel enclave that was the site of a failed raid by American commandos in October targeting a militant known as Ikrima. It was not clear if the missile was launched from a drone.
The security sources told Reuters that Amey was close to Al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, who since taking charge in 2008 has restyled the group as a global player in the Al-Qaeda franchise - a transformation that was highlighted when it killed at least 67 people in an attack on a Kenyan shopping mall in September.
One of the officials, a former Islamist terrorist who defected in 2009, said Amey advised Godane on the operations of Al-Shabaab's Amniyat 'secret service', an elite unit blamed for suicide attacks in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
"He was a good friend of Godane and the two were always on good terms," the intelligence official, who identified himself as Hussein, told Reuters.
"He was the adviser of Al-Shabaab leader Godane on matters regarding the Amniyat and masterminding suicide bomb attacks," he added.
A Somali government spokesman described Amey as a "top leader of Al-Shabaab". A spokesman for the U.S. embassy to Somalia, which is based in the Kenyan capital, could not be reached.
Both Somali intelligence officials said Amey was killed alongside his driver on Sunday.