U.S. and Somali officials confirmed on Tuesday that an American military airstrike in Somalia targeted the leader of the Al-Shabaab group, Ahmed Abdi Godane, Reuters reports.
However, the officials said, it may take time to determine whether Godane was killed.
The United States launched Hellfire missiles and laser-guided munitions to destroy an Al-Shabaab encampment in south-central Somalia late on Monday, the Pentagon said.
It said both manned and unmanned aircraft were used in the operation.
Some U.S. officials privately said they believed Godane was killed in the strike, but the U.S. government was not ready to confirm that - even as it acknowledged the significance his death would have in the fight against the Al-Qaeda-linked group.
"If he was killed, this is a very significant blow to their network, to their organization, and, we believe, to their ability to continue to conduct terrorist attacks," said Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby, according to Reuters.
Al-Shabaab has carried out various terrorist attacks, including a deadly attack at a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya, last September. Kenya has faced multiple attacks by Al-Shabaab terrorists, who want the country's military to leave Somalia.
The group has also been carrying out guerrilla attacks in parts of the Somali capital Mogadishu, where it is fighting the Western-backed government of Somalia.
Godane's close associate, Ahmed Mohamed Amey, was killed by a U.S. air strike in January.