Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels, al-Shabab, named a new leader Saturday after confirming the killing of their previous leader by a U.S. airstrike, a commander of the group said.
The Somali group unanimously selected Ahmad Umar, also known as Abu Ubaidah, at a meeting in an undisclosed location in Somalia, said rebel commander Abu Mohammed.
Al-Shabab also stated that it remains aligned with al-Qaida, according to the Site Intelligence Group, that monitors statements by Islamic terrorist groups.
There had been speculation by analysists that al-Shabab would be shaken by a power struggle over the selection of a new leader and that perhaps the Somali rebels would change their alliance and become allied to the Islamic State group operating in Syria and Iraq.
The Somali group had to appoint a new leader following the death of Ahmed Abdi Godane who was killed with two other officials by a U.S. airstrike Monday. The attack took place 105 miles (170 kilometers) south of Mogadishu, where al-Shabab trains its fighters.
“Avenging the death of our scholars and leaders is a binding obligation on our shoulders that we will never relinquish nor forget no matter how long it takes,” said the al-Shabab statement, according to SITE.
President Barack Obama confirmed Friday that Godane was killed by the U.S. airstrike. The U.S. State Department declared al-Shabab a terrorist organization in February 2008.
Godane was also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr and was the spiritual leader of the al-Qaida-linked group. The U.S. had offered a reward of up to $7 million for information leading to his arrest. Godane had publicly claimed al-Shabab was responsible for last year’s deadly Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, that left 67 people dead.
Somalia’s government said Friday night that it has credible intelligence al-Shabab is planning attacks in retaliation for Godane’s death.
The U.S. State Department declared al-Shabab a terrorist organization in February 2008.