Officials say US airstrike kills telecom worker in Somalia

MOGADISHU, SOMALIA (AP) — A US military airstrike has killed a worker for a telecom company in Somalia, officials in the country said on Tuesday.

Mohamud Haji Sirad, 55, a local manager of Hormuud, Somalia’s largest telecom company, was killed when two missiles struck his farm on the outskirts of the rebel-held town of Jilib on Monday, Somali officials said.

Both the United States (US) Africa Command and Somalia’s government said the airstrike killed a member of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremist group. But officials at Hormuud said the airstrike killed their local manager in Jilib.

A Somali intelligence official said the man targetted by the airstrike appeared to have been on the security radar, but he declined to confirm whether officials were aware that their target was a telecom worker. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media.

Somali authorities have long accused some businessmen of having ties with al-Shabab, which extorts significant amounts of money from businesses to finance its activities in the Horn of Africa nation.

The US Africa Command statement said that “we currently assess no civilians were injured or killed as a result of this airstrike” that was carried out in coordination with Somalia’s government.

In a separate statement, the US Africa Command said an airstrike it carried out last Saturday killed a senior al-Shabab leader associated with the group’s deadly attack in January on a military airstrip in Kenya that killed a US service member and two US contractors and destroyed several US aircraft.

The man organised and directed operations in the border region between Kenya and Somalia, the statement said, adding that his wife, also an al-Shabab member, was killed.

The US has carried out a growing number of airstrikes against al-Shabab during US President Donald Trump’s administration. Some have been followed by allegations of civilians killed.

The US said it carried out 63 airstrikes in Somalia last year. At least a dozen have been carried out this year against al-Shabab.