Ahmed Abdi Godane, the leader of the Islamic extremist group Al-Shabaab has been killed during a series of drone strikes in Southern Somalia, the Pentagon has confirmed. The White House says that his death represents a “huge step forward” against the infamous extremist enterprise.

Godane was one of several high level targets that were prioritised during a series of manned and unmanned drone attacks that have taken place across Southern Somalia since 1 September.

Rumours began to circulate about the potential death of Godane following a planned drone strike near the town of Sablaale on Monday, 1 September. However in the last few days both the Pentagon and the U.S. Department of Defence confirmed in their respective statements that Godane had been killed in the strike in Sablaale. The U.S Department of Defence released this statement on 5 September:

“Today, the Department of Defense confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the leader of Al-Shabaab, is dead as a result of a U.S military targeted airstrike in Somalia undertaken over the weekend.”

“Godane’s removal is a major symbolic and operational loss to the largest Al-Qaida affiliate in Africa and reflects years of painstaking work by our military, intelligence and law enforcement professionals.”

Just over a year ago Godane publicly took responsibility for the terrorist attack on Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya. He said that the attack was retribution for the heavy contribution of Kenyan forces that have aided Somalian armed forces in their fight on home ground against the group.

Reports on his death have suggested that during the aerial assault on the town of Sablaale on a heavily-wooded area Godane did in fact escape the original drone fire but not long after succumbing to the injuries he had sustained.

It has not yet been confirmed whether any other high level targets of the strike have been injured or killed but U.S officials are unanimous in their verdict that the death of Al-Shabaab’s spiritual leader since 2008 is a real statement of intent in the global fight against Islamic extremism.

The long-term rise of Al-Shabaab and the still-rising reputations of other Islamic extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram have seen The White House and Downing Street come under intense pressure in recent months to take a harder stance on these groups.

With the nations of Iraq and Syria slowly being held to ransom with the movement of ISIS, and in Africa the nations of Nigeria and Cameroon dealing with the international threat of Boko Haram outside help has become invaluable.

The rapid influx of these groups has partially been due to the fact that a lot of the armed forces operating in these countries are still woefully unequipped to control and neutralize the growing threat. Further recruitment has also been a very tough issue with many civilians living in fear or fleeing to neighbouring nations to avoid the conflict.

Back in 2012 Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaida formally announced their unity that would see their forces align to create a powerful force across Western Africa and the Middle East. In their statement Ahmed Godane said that as part of their new partnership, Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaida would: “follow the road of jihad and martyrdom in the footsteps that our martyr Osama Bin Laden has drawn for us.”

The death of Godane who was hailed as the “spiritual” leader of Al-Shabaab spawns a number of critical issues that the group will have to deal with in the immediate future. Not only will the hierarchical turmoil within the group shake up future plans but also potentially shake the trust of Al-Qaida.

Whilst these events have not solved the long-term issues in Somalia it is almost certainly going to instil a glimmer of hope for many Somalian nationals that have been living under the intimidation of the group for so many years.

The long-term ramifications of the death of Godane hands the upper hand to those combating Al-Shabaab. With the group temporarily without a single figure for power to reside leaves the ball firmly in the court of the intervention forces working tirelessly throughout Africa.

The hierarchy of the Al-Shabaab has remained largely illusive for the past three to four years and striking at the very heart of their foundations shows a major breakthrough in the intelligence work on the ground in Africa. Praise must also therefore be given to the officials of the affected countries for their cooperation and dedication to their cause.

Whilst the war on Islamic extremism in Africa remains far from resolved, the death of Godane as a major figure of these groups will serve as a benchmark and as a catalyst for confidence and motivation for the global effort to eradicate the tyranny that Islamic extremism brings to so many millions.

ROBERT PRITCHARD