Al-Shabaab has on Wednesday released a statement, rejecting claims by Somali military commander who said the group’s leader passed away over sickness.
The Somalia National Army radio is reporting that the leader of jihadist militant group al-Shabaab has died, but the militants have denied this report.
The report said that Sheikh Ahmed Diriye, popularly known as Abu Ubeidah, had died in the town of Jilib in southern Somalia after suffering from cancer for a year.
Abu Ubeidah took over leadership of the Horn of the Africa-based jihadist group in 2014 following the death of his predecessor Ahmed Godane, who was killed in a U.S. military airstrike.
Before the rumors of his death spread, Somalia and Kenyan media had reported that Ubeidah was suffering from a severe kidney problem and was bedridden.
There were also reports of jostling among senior al-Shabab officials to succeed him.
The militants have responded to the latest reports, saying he is alive and healthy – and that the claims of his death were made up by the Somali government to divert public attention from its own failures.
Al-Shabaab has waged war in Somalia for a decade, seeking to topple the government and instill an extreme jihadist system of governance.
The war has killed tens of thousands and displaced millions of others, crippling Somalia’s development and making the country’s governance a nightmare.
African Union troops have however been supporting the Somalia forces to battle al-Shabaab, forcing them to flee their former strongholds and give up towns they had captured. They however still manage to stage attacks, often suicide bombings.