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US airstrike neutralizes key planner of Manda Bay attack

NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 26 — A US airstrike in Somalia has killed an Al Shabaab leader who played a leading role in “planning and directing terrorist operations,” including a January attack on Manda Bay, Kenya, that killed three Americans.

Kenya Navy firefighter unravels a firehose during a training circuit at Manda Bay, Kenya, Aug. 29. The training, held by 475th Expeditionary Air Base Squadron firefighters, was designed to build upon the established partnership between the two nations by enforcing teamwork and endurance while enhancing technical proficiency/FILE

According to the US military, post-strike assessments confirmed that two terrorists killed in the precision airstrikes were associated with the attack on Manda Bay.

The second casualty was said to be the militant’s wife, also an Al Shabaab member.

A statement from the US Africa Command Tuesday described the lead terrorist were identified as senior Al Shabaab leader, who was in charge of planning and directing terrorist operations on the Kenya border region, including the recent attack on Manda Bay.

The airstrike occurred in the vicinity of Saakow, Somalia, which is located approximately 320 kilometers west of Mogadishu.

“Since January 5, U.S. Africa Command and our partners have pursued those responsible for the attack on U.S. and Kenyan forces at Manda Bay,” said U.S. Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said in the statement released Tuesday.

“This strike demonstrates that we will continue to relentlessly pursue those responsible for Manda Bay and those wishing to do harm to Americans and our African partners,” Townsend added.

The high-profile Al Shabaab attack on a military airfield in Manda Bay resulted in the death of a US soldier and two American defense contractors as well as the destruction of multiple Defense Department aircraft.

During the attack, Al Shabaab fighters fired mortars on Kenyan military installations while simultaneously assaulting the airfield.

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US and Kenyan troops responded to the attack, killing five Al Shabaab members.

Initial US military estimates said that “several dozen Al Shabaab fighters” were involved in the assault.

The attack came in the aftermath of threats for revenge on US forces or their bases around the world following the assassination of Iranian top military general Qasem Soleimani, who was taken down by US forces in Iraq, accused of orchestrating vicious attacks targetting US citizens and interests in the Middle East.

Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying they had “successfully stormed the heavily fortified military base and have now taken effective control of part of the base.”

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