A United States military strike on Monday hit a vehicle carrying senior members of Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, killing the group's top explosives expert and one other person, a Somali intelligence official said.
The men were the only occupants of the vehicle and no one else was harmed, witnesses told Al Jazeera. The witnesses blamed the United States for the attack, noting that the U.S. has carried out previous drone strikes in Somalia.
A senior U.S. military official told The Associated Press that there was a U.S. counterterrorism strike against a terrorist target in Somalia Monday but would give no further details. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no authorization to discuss the strike publicly.
An Al-Shabab member who gave his name as Abu Mohamed said one of those killed was Al-Shabab's top explosives expert, known as Anta. He said an unmanned drone fired at the car in Somalia's Middle Juba region.
"It was after afternoon prayers between 1:30pm and 2pm when I heard a loud bang. Just one big bang," a witness from Jilib told Al Jazeera. "I came to the scene shortly after. I saw two dead bodies. Then Al-Shabab fighters came to scene and took the bodies from the Suzuki vehicle. It was a drone strike."
A Somali intelligence official in Mogadishu said the attack occurred as Al-Shabab members went to intervene in a clan dispute. The official insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to share intelligence.
Earlier this month, United States Navy SEALs raided a coastal Somali town to take down a Kenyan Al-Shabab member. The SEALs withdrew before capturing or killing their target: Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir. Known as Ikrima, Mohamed Abdulkadir was identified as the lead planner of a plot by Al-Shabab to attack Kenya's parliament building and the United Nations office in Nairobi in 2011 and 2012.
The East African nation has seen several military attacks — often reported as drone strikes — in recent years.
Al-Shabab militants attacked the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi, in neighboring Kenya, on Sept. 21 with guns and grenades, killing at least 67 people. Al-Shabab promised more attacks on Kenyan soil unless Kenya withdraws its troops from Somalia.
Al Jazeera and wire services