U.S. military says killed militant leader behind attack in Kenya that killed Americans

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A U.S. air strike over the weekend in Somalia killed an Islamist militant who helped plan last month’s attack on a military base in Kenya in which three Americans died, the U.S. military said on Tuesday.

The military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) said in a statement the strike carried out on Saturday killed a senior member of the Somalia-based militant group al Shabaab “who was in charge of planning and directing terrorist operations on the Kenya border region, including the recent attack on Manda Bay” and his wife.

The statement described the wife as a “witting and active” al Shabaab member.

In the Jan. 5 attack, three Americans - one U.S. military service member and two contractors - were killed during an attack by al Shabaab on the Manda Bay military base in Kenya used by both U.S. and Kenyan forces.

After that attack, the U.S. military deployed additional forces to Kenya, which borders Somalia.

Africom carried out 63 air strikes in Somalia last year targeting al Shabaab insurgents. It has carried out 18 this year so far.

Al Shabaab, allied to al Qaeda, has been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow the Somali government and impose strict Islamic law.

Reporting by Humphrey Malalo and George Obulutsa; Writing by Maggie Fick; Editing by Chris Reese and Gareth Jones