Somalia offers amnesty to militants

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somalia’s government on Wednesday offered amnesty to fighters with al-Shabab, the Islamic extremist group whose leader was targeted Monday night in a US airstrike.

Somali authorities are giving al-Shabab militants 45 days to take up the offer, Security Minister Khalif Ahmed Ereg told reporters in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

He said the government ‘‘will create a better livelihood to build their future for those who meet the deadline.’’


Somali forces, backed by African Union troops, last week launched an offensive on al-Shabab’s last strongholds in the south, where the militants are believed to plot attacks across Somalia that have left scores dead this year. Al-Shabab is believed to have thousands of fighters, who are seeking to impose Sharia law on Somalia, but the group faces increasing pressure from African Union forces that helped to oust the militants from Mogadishu in 2011.

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Al-Shabab has since resorted to tactics that include suicide bombings and assassination of government officials.

Ahmed Abdi Godane, the group’s spiritual leader, claimed responsibility for a deadly attack a year ago on an upscale mall in neighboring Kenya, whose government has sent its troops to fight al-Shabab in Somalia.

Somali authorities are trying to verify whether Godane, 37, was killed or wounded in the US airstrike that targeted him on Monday, government spokesman Ridwaan Abdiwali said Wednesday.

Somalia’s government is certain the strike hit ‘‘a gathering’’ of al-Shabab leaders and is ‘‘in the process’’ of confirming who was hit in the attack, he said.


Abdiwali praised US support in the war on the militant group, saying close military collaboration had helped to weaken al-Shabab.

The United States confirmed on Tuesday the airstrike, conducted by special operations forces using manned and unmanned aircraft, targeted Godane.

The strike hit a car in which Godane was traveling after he left a meeting of the group’s top leaders in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region and Godane ‘‘might have been killed along with other militants,’’ a senior Somali intelligence official said Tuesday.

At least six militants were killed in the attack, said a militant commander, Abu Mohammed, but he would not say if Godane was among the victims.