In what is being hailed as a "huge victory" for the United States, Ahmed Godane, the ruthless and reclusive terror chief behind last year's Westgate Mall massacre in Kenya which killed 67 people in a four-day siege, is now dead himself -- killed by a U.S. drone strike, the Pentagon announced Friday.
A Twitter account run by Al-Shabaab, the Ismalic extremist group operated by Godane, confirmed his death Thursday, according to the All Africa news outlet. Al-Shabaab (which translates as "The Youth") adheres to the same extreme version of Islamic fundamentalism as other violent terror groups such as Al Qaeda, with which Al-Shabaab was affiliated, and ISIS, aka Islamic State.
Al-Shabaab has seized control over large sections of southern central Somalia and has been battling the weak Somali government for total control of the country since 2006.
Earlier this week, the U.S. said that it bombed a Somali target on September 1, but the U.S. military released few details about the attack until Friday.
"We have confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the co-founder of al-Shabaab, has been killed. The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on September 1, which led to his death," said Pentagon spokesperson Rear Admiral John Kirby, in a prepared statement. "Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to al-Shabaab. The United States works in coordination with its friends, allies and partners to counter the regional and global threats posed by violent extremist organizations."
The Somali government also confirmed that Godane was killed in the Monday drone attack on a vehicle convoy outside of Mogadishu, an strike which killed seven others.
Experts on the region's politics agreed that the death of Ahmed Godane would not only deal a major setback to Al-Shabaab, but could also change the political landscape in eastern Africa.
"One expert, Abdi Aynte, director of Somalia's first "think tank" the Heritage Institute For Policy Studies, called the death of Godane "the beginning of the end" for Al-Shabaab. Another, ITV African Correspondent Rohit Kachroo, called the killing of Ahmed Godane, a 'huge victory for the U.S.'"
The problem for the terrorist group is that Godane, by assassinating most of his rivals for power within the group, had taken complete control of Al-Shabaab and left the group with no one ready to step into his role.
Among the rivals eliminated by Ahmed Godane was the Alabama-born American Omar Hammami, who was ambushed and killed by Godane loyalists within Al-Shabaab on September 12, 2013.