The man believed to be the head of al-Qaeda in Somalia has been killed in an airstrike along with eight other people, an Islamic insurgent group said on Thursday.
The spokesman for the Islamic al-Shabab militia, Sheik Muqtar Robow, said the overnight strike killed Aden Hashi Ayro, his brother, another commander and six others in the central Somali town of Dusamareeb. Six more people were wounded.
??ur brother martyr Aden Hashi, has received what he was looking for ??death for the sake of Allah ??at the hands of the United States,???Robow said by phone.
Somali government officials said Ayro trained in Afghanistan before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and heads al-Qaeda?? 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 its Ethiopian allies. He has also called for attacks on African peacekeepers in Somalia in a recording on an Islamic Web site.
Sheik Muhidin Mohamud Omar, who Robow described as ?? top commander??in the al-Shabab, was also killed.
A local elder, Ali Ahmed Said, said five people died inside the targeted house and the rest were in neighboring buildings. Earlier Robow had said all the casualties were in one house.
A resident, Nur Farah, said ??he bodies were beyond recognition, some them cut into pieces, and those wounded have been severely burnt.??br />
??f you look at the site of the attack, you would believe there has never been a house,??Nur Farah said.
It was not immediately clear who was behind the airstrike on the town 500km north of Mogadishu.
Over the past year, the US military has attacked several suspected extremists in Somalia.
Robow vowed the militia would keep fighting.
??hose who were guiding the attack, including [Somali] President Abdullahi Yusuf, we say to you if you feel happy with the death of our leader, you will regret it later ... If Ayro is dead, those he trained still remain strong and adamant to his way,??Robow said.
Al-Shabab is the armed wing of the Council of Islamic Courts movement. The US 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 UN-backed interim Somali government and the allied Ethiopian army drove the group from power in December 2006.
But the group in recent months 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.
The US has repeatedly accused the Islamic group of harboring terrorists linked to al-Qaeda.