Somalia, US troops kill top Al Shabaab head with $10m bounty

Friday December 22 2023

Maalim Ayman, leader of the Al Shabaab unit Jaysh Ayman. PHOTO | COURTESY


Somali troops and US force this week killed a senior commander of the Al Shabaab militant group with a $10 million American bounty on his head, the nation's Information minister said.

The Al Qaeda-linked Islamists have led a 16-year insurgency against the fragile central government and control swathes of rural Somalia.

Maalim Ayman, leader of the Al Shabaab unit Jaysh Ayman, was wanted by the United States over an attack on an air base in Kenya in January 2020 that left three Americans dead.

Read: Authorities target Shabaab with more sanctions

"Maalim Ayman, a senior leader of Al Shabaab, was confirmed to have been killed in a joint operation by the Somali National Army with assistance from US forces on December 17," Information Minister Daud Aweis said on X on Thursday.


He said Ayman was responsible for "planning multiple lethal terrorist attacks in #Somalia and nearby countries."

In January, the US State Department said Ayman planned the 2020 attack on the Manda Bay Airfield on Kenya's northern coast, offering a reward of up to $10 million for information that could lead to his capture.

Washington has worked closely with Mogadishu to counter Al Shabaab, which has come under pressure from a Somali government offensive launched last year with the backing of local clan militias as well as air support from the US and African Union forces.

But after making significant progress in recapturing territory, the offensive has stalled, raising questions about the government's capacity to fight the Islamists.

A study last year by George Washington University's Program on Extremism said that Jaysh Ayman was formed by Al Shabaab in an effort to penetrate into Kenya.

Read: US offers $10m for Manda Bay attack mastermind

The unit, which has exercised growing autonomy, includes foreigners, dual nationals and Kenyans both of Somali and non-Somali descent, it said.

An African Union force deployed in Somalia in 2007 with a six-month mandate but still remains on the ground.