A Kenyan man who was Al-Shabaab’s top commander behind the Garissa University College attack has been killed in a US drone attack in Somalia.
The 2am attack, which took place in Juungal, between Baardheere and Buur Hajje, was as a result of an intensified US campaign against terrorism in the region.
Mohamed Kuno, alias Gamadheere, the mastermind of April 2 Garissa attack, was in charge of external operations against Kenya, and was killed together with another commander identified as Ismael Jamhad.
Interior Ministry spokesman Mwenda Njoka said the bodies of the two commanders had been collected from the scene for forensic identification.
Kuno was a former teacher in Garissa and had been named the mastermind of the massacre that claimed 148 lives, including 142 students.
He was first brought to the attention of Kenyans by the Directorate of Criminal Investigations on December 17 last year, when a Sh20 million bounty was put on his head.
The killing of Gamadheere came as the United States intensified its campaign against terrorism in Kenya and in neighbouring Somalia.
There has been a major and unprecedented involvement of US security agents in the campaign, prompted by President Obama’s visit to Kenya next week.
Already, at least 11 terrorism suspects, two of them from the Dadaab refugee camp, have been arrested in the past four days but details about their whereabouts remain scanty.
The two commanders were killed in Bardere Town in southwest Somalia.
Residents said several blasts were heard at dawn before the bodies were found later in the day.
After the blasts, heavily armed Al-Shabaab fighters rushed to the scene, near Juba River, about 460 kilometres west of Mogadishu, where the dead men were found.
Though the terrorists have been driven out of most of the key towns they once held, Bardere is one of the few ones still under their control.
After the attack, the terrorists cut off the telecommunications network for hours.
Security reports indicate that Kenya was declared relatively safe before the White House announced President Obama’s visit.
However, the pre-announcement assessment recommended increasing the fight against terrorism.
As a result, US counter-terrorism officers enhanced their operations in East Africa, focusing more on Somalia.
The enhanced operation also led to the killing of Adan Garar, a Shabaab leader linked to the 2013 Westgate attack, in a drone attack in Diinsoor, in southern Somalia, on March 12.