A senior military commander with the Al-Qaeda linked al-Shabab group has been killed in an ambush in southwestern Somalia, Somali army said Wednesday.
Moalim Dirow who is believed to be an influential al-Shabab commander died along with his three bodyguards who were travelling with him in a military vehicle in an ambush by Somali troops in Bakol region, officials say.
A Somali military spokesman told local media that troops acting upon an intelligence tipoff about an imminent attack by militants during a military operation laid the ambush in a shrubby area in Lafole, a rural settlement in the region as the al-Shabab commander drove through a back road to cross into a nearby area, killing him and his three bodyguards.
Four AK47 guns have also been recovered during the ambush on the militants who were reportedly on a reconnaissance mission at the time, officials say.
According to security officials, the al-Shabab commander thought to be a die-hard veteran fighter who had led a group of fighters that has skirmished for years with security forces across the region in attacks that officials said hampered efforts by local authorities to reopen a key highway linking Baidoa to Mogadishu.
However,, the Somali National Army backed by African Union troops continue conducting smaller operations to flush out al-Shabab militants from their main supply routes close to Mogadishu in an attempt to reopen the Baidoa-Mogadishu road on which al-Shabab fighters are believed to have erected multiple checkpoints to collect taxes from vehicles traveling on the vital road.
Al-Shabab is said to have raked in millions of dollars from taxes it imposed on vehicles carrying commodities to Badioa, something that officials said is helping the group to fund its deadly insurgency across Somalia.