Somalia: Al-Shabaab Leader Linked to al-Qaeda Dies in South Somalia

A senior leader of al-Shabaab accused by the United Nations Security Council of having links to al-Qaeda has died at the age of 73 after a long illness, the Somali group said.

Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki died Wednesday in the southern Somali town of Hargeysa Yarey, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rageh, a spokesman for the Islamist militants, said in a statement Thursday on the pro-al-Shabaab Radio Andalus monitored in the capital, Mogadishu. Rageh didn’t give any details on al-Turki’s illness.

Al-Turki met former al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, twice in Afghanistan and once in Sudan, Rageh said. The UN listed al-Turki in 2004 for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating” in acts of violence. He was named on a U.S. Treasury Department sanctions list three years earlier for involvement with terrorism.

 Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in Somalia since 2006 in a bid to impose a strict form of Islamic law. The group has lost some ground since being driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 by a coalition of Somali and African Union forces.

Al-Turki, who was born in the Ogaden region of eastern Ethiopia, is “believed to have been involved” in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, according to a U.K. government list of sanctions targets published in March.

Al-Turki ran a training camp for al-Shabaab fighters near Somalia’s border with Kenya in 2008 and maintained “close links” to the group, according to the UN. His forces contributed to operations included the capture of the southern Somali port city of Kismayo in August 2008, which was retaken by African forces four years later.