A top al-Shabaab commander believed to have been killed in a US airstrike in Somalia six days ago is still alive, pro-insurgent media reported Friday, while a witness said he saw the man make a public appearance.
The Somali government earlier said two senior commanders of the Islamist group, Mohamed Mire and Ali Yusuf, were killed in the US strike on an al-Shabaab training camp north of Mogadishu on March 5.
A Pentagon spokesman said the two were among a total of about 150 fatalities, according to CNN.
But a man identified as Mire told pro-insurgent radio Andalus late Thursday that reports of his death, as well as the death toll of 150, were "lies."
"The Americans claim to have killed over 150 of our fighters, including myself. Everyone here can see that I am still alive ... It shows how the enemy is lying," he said.
An audio clip of the interview was posted on the pro-insurgent website somalimemo.net on Friday.
Mire appeared in front of a crowd in the Islamist-held town of Buaqable in southern Hiiraan region, said a local elder who asked to be identified only as Mumin.
The crowd had gathered to watch the execution of a Somali soldier who had been captured by the Islamists, Mumin said.
Regional government spokesman Hassan Mohamed Ibrahim also said Mire was thought to be alive.
"We strongly believe that ... Mire is still alive ... I am not ready to provide more details than that ... But we have evidence of that," Ibrahim said.
Mire told Andalus that al-Shabaab would execute anyone found to collaborate with government forces.
"We are telling you that we are ready to hunt you down and then have you executed by a firing squad," he said.
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