Somalia’s government welcomed the death of Bilal al-Sudani, the Islamic State group leader killed by U.S. special operations forces in a remote part of northern Somalia on Wednesday night.
“It’s a very positive and welcoming,” Hussein Sheikh Ali, national security adviser for Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, told VOA Somali on Thursday.
Ali, who is in Washington, told VOA that Islamic State is not the major threat to Somalia, as is al-Shabab, but its leader, al-Sudani, was a “dangerous terrorist” who posed a potential threat to Somalia and East Africa.
The U.S. operation targeted al-Sudani, an important Islamic State financial facilitator, and took place in the Cal Miskaad mountains, in a remote cave complex in the Bari region of Somalia’s Puntland state.
The U.S. government said 10 other terrorist operatives were also killed in the operation. No civilians were injured or killed in the operation, Pentagon officials said.
U.S. officials said the U.S. forces had intended to capture al-Sudani and other associates, but that attempt failed.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement, “This action leaves the United States and its partners safer and more secure, and it reflects our steadfast commitment to protecting Americans from the threat of terrorism at home and abroad.”
Somalia’s national security adviser said the U.S. operation was important and shows the United States was not only targeting al-Shabab, but also Islamic State militants in Somalia.
“The message is, that the leaders of all terror groups in Somalia are not safe,” and there is no safe haven for them “in the entire Somalia Peninsula,” Ali said.
Al-Sudani has been on the radar for U.S. intelligence officials for years. Austin said al-Sudani played a key role in helping to fund IS operations in Africa as well as the ISIS-K affiliate operating in Afghanistan. The U.S. Treasury Department had originally designated al-Sudani in 2012, for his role with al-Shabab group in Somalia.
Security experts believe the death of the IS leader in Somalia is a major setback to IS and other terrorist groups operating in Somalia who are facing an extensive offensive by Somalian forces.
Ali said there is solid collaboration between Somalia and the U.S. in countering al-Shabab.
“The U.S. military support to Somalia is very helpful and its best,” he said.
“We have launched an offensive, and we have been very successful in the last six months, during which we liberated dozens of towns and villages from al-Shabab,” Ali said.
“I am here in Washington, D.C., to meet senior leadership, and it’s been a quite successful so far” Ali added.
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