Senior figure in Somalia's al Shabaab killed in air strike - state media

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A senior commander in Somalia's al Shabaab group with a $5 million bounty on his head was killed in an American air strike last month, according to Somalia state media, a blow to the militants' Islamist insurgency.

According to a Somalia state radio report late on Saturday, Bashir Mohamed Mahamoud was the head of al Shabaab's operations and was killed in an American air strike on Feb. 22 in the Sakow district of the Jubba region in Somalia's south.

Mahamoud sometimes used the alias Bashir Qoorgaab.

"AFRICOM forces killed in an air strike Bashir Mohamed (qoorgaab), the operation head as well executive member of al Shabaab," the state radio reported, using an acronym for the U.S. military's Africa Command.

The radio report said Mahamoud had been responsible for a series of attacks on Somalia national army military bases among other attacks.

Somalia's information minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareye did not respond to a Reuters' call for comment. Al Shabaab could not be reached for comment.

Since 2008, al Shabaab has been fighting to topple Somalia's central government and establish its own rule based on a strict interpretation of Islam's sharia law.

The group's campaign of bombings and gun attacks has targeted Somali military bases and civilian infrastructure including hotels, bars and schools in both Somalia and other regional countries.

Al Shabaab fighters also target the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force AMISOM, which helps defend the central government.

The United States frequently carries out air strikes in Somalia aimed against al Shaabab, attempting to degrade their capabilities and ultimately defeating them.


(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Mark Potter)

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