The leader of the Pro-Islamic State group in Somalia has survived U.S. airstrikes which targeted caves in a remote mountainous area in Puntland, the region’s president told VOA Somali.
Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said the leader of the group, Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, was the target of Friday’s U.S. strike.
“They [US] were targeting those troublemakers and their biggest leader Abdulkadir Mumin, they were looking for them,” he said. “Based on the information I’m betting he is still alive and is not dead.”
Ali said the U.S. did not share intelligence with his region but the assessment is based on information from his region’s intelligence agencies.
On Friday, the United States Africa Command confirmed carrying out two strikes against IS militants in Somalia. The first attack occurred at around midnight and the second attack took place the following morning at 11:00 am.
The U.S. Africa Command says several militants were killed in the strikes in Buqo Valley, 160 kilometers east of the city of Bosaso. The strikes were the first against the group by the United States.
On Sunday a senior Somali intelligence official told VOA Somali that they believe up to 20 militants were killed in the two strikes. He said some of the caves the militants were sheltering in collapsed on them as a result of the bombing.
The official who asked not to be named told VOA Somali that it’s “likely” the leader of the group Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin survived the attack.
“Either he was not in those caves or he was missed, it is likely that he is alive,” he said.
The official said he believes two foreign figures including a Sudanese militant were also in the targeted area.
Intelligence sources say at least four missiles hit the caves in Buqo Valley in the first of two rounds of strikes. The second round of strikes occurred after the militants gathered in a place believed to be a burial site for those killed in the overnight strike.
Pro-IS militants emerged in Somalia in October 2015 after splitting from al-Shabab. The group has since recruited members in the eastern parts of Puntland, where Mumin’s clan resides.
The group has claimed responsibility for four attacks in Bosaso this year including the last incident which occurred just ten days ago where a would-be bomber pushing explosives hidden in a wheelbarrow detonated the device killing himself and injuring six others.
A month before, the group claimed an attack on a police commander at a coffee shop in Bosaso. The officer survived with injuries.
In February this year, two gunmen attacked the International Village Hotel in Bosaso and exchanged fire with security forces. Four soldiers and the two attackers were killed.
In May a suicide bomber blew himself up at a police checkpoint near the Jubba Hotel in Bosaso, killing five people and injuring 17 others.
The group scored its biggest attack in late October 2016 when its fighters seized the ancient town of Qandala from Puntland forces and kept control of it for 40 days.