Somali government announced that a co-founder and senior al-Shabab militant, Abdullahi Nadir, was killed on Saturday in the southern Middle Jubba region.
The Somali information ministry said that Nadir was the head of al-Shabab’s religious propagation unit and was the subject of a $3m (£2.7m) US bounty.
It added that al-Shabab considered Nadir a potential successor to its current leader, Ahmed Omar Diriye, aka Abu Ubaidah, who has long been rumoured to be “in poor health”.
Private media reported that Nadir was killed in a drone strike.
The information ministry said that Somali security forces and international partners killed Nadir in an operation, but did not mention a drone strike, the BBC reported.
The US Africa Command, which frequently targets top al-Shabab militants and positions, has not yet commented on the development.