US air strikes succeed in killing top al-Qaeda terrorist in Somalia

The leader of Somalia's Islamist insurrection has been killed in a US airstrike. Aden Hashi Ayro, who led the al-Shabaab militia and was reputed to have been trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, died along with at least ten others when his home in Dusamareb was bombed yesterday, according to Timesonline.

He was blamed for the deaths of 16 foreigners - including the BBC journalist Kate Peyton - and for waging jihad against Somali and Ethiopian government forces, plunging the country into a humanitarian crisis.

Analysts said that it was the first success for America's secret war in Somalia after four previous airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians and stoked anti-Western sentiment.

But David Shinn, the former US Ambassador to Ethiopia, said that the death would not stop the insurgency and could provoke revenge attacks. "It will not end the al-Shabaab movement," he said. "I think it will disrupt it and raise some internal issues of leadership - who takes control, in what direction it goes - but to suggest it eliminates al-Shabaab is wishful thinking."

Ayro rose to prominence as a military commander with the Islamic Courts Union. His followers in al-Shabaab, "The Youth", were credited with helping the Islamic Courts to take control of much of southern and central Somalia in 2006.

Neighbouring countries as well as Western governments feared that the presence of people such as Ayro and suspects wanted for the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania would turn Somalia into a haven for al-Qaeda.

The Courts Union lost control of the capital, Mogadishu, in December 2006, and much of its support melted away. Ayro soon resurfaced to declare jihad on Ethiopian forces that had helped the feeble transitional Government to defeat the Courts. He used tactics pioneered in Iraq to mount an Islamist insurgency.

A spokesman for al-Shabaab confirmed his death. Mukhtar Ali Robow said: "Two of our important people, including Ayro, were killed."

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