The militant group Al Shabab's intelligence chief and 10 other commanders of the group have been killed in an air strike in Somalia, the Kenyan army said on Thursday
If confirmed, Mahad Karate’s death would be a "major blow" to the Al-Qaeda-linked group and major victory for Kenya. Karate was the subject of a $5 million US bounty.
The Kenyan army, part of the African Union force in Somalia (AMISOM) fighting the militants, claims to have killed Karate in an air strike at a Shabab training camp 10 days ago.
Karate, who was responsible for organising attacks and assasinations by Al Shabab, is said to have been involved in plotting the 2015 massacre of 148 people at Garissa university in northeastern Kenya.
"The killing... is a major blow to the terrorist group," army spokesman David Obonyo said in a statement.
"The Kenya Defence Forces, under AMISOM operations, would like to confirm that Mahad Mohammed Karate... and 10 other middle level commanders were killed in a major KDF strike," in southern Somalia on February 8, he added.
Obonyo said the intelligence chief was spotted during a ceremony for an estimated 80 Amniyat recruits "who had completed their training, and were due for deployment to carry out more terrorist attacks."
He also claimed 42 recruits were among those killed and "many others" were injured.
However, Al Shabab militant dismissed the claim Karate was killed as "baseless," saying that Kenya attempting to make up for the fact the militant group overran an army base in El-Adde in southwest Somalia last month.
"All soldiers and leaders of the mujahedeen fighters are safe and sound, there were no air strikes carried out," the group said in a statement
"The baseless claims made by the Christian government of Kenya is aimed at hiding the massive losses inflicted on them during the attack on El-Adde."
Kenya accused Karate of planning the El-Added attack.
"It is believed that Karate played a major role in the recent attack on KDF troops in El-Adde by the deployment of his suicide bombers," Obonyo said, adding that operations against Al Shabab "will continue until justice is done."
Kenyan authorities have released no information concerning the death toll from the attack on the base, but many suspect it to have been the worst Al Shabab attack on the country's military so far, with the group claiming to have killed more than 100 Kenyan soldiers.
Following the attack, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta vowed revenge saying the Shebab would "have no time to breathe."
In April 2015, Karate was put on the US State Department’s wanted list after the Garissa attack, which followed a 2013 attack in Kenya's capital Nairobi in which Al Shabab gunmen slaughtered at least 67 people at the Westgate shopping mall.
"Karate, also known as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, played a key role in the Amniyat, the wing of the Shebab responsible for assassinations and the April 2, 2015 attack on Garissa University College," said a US Rewards for Justice wanted notice.
"The Shebab's [Al Shabab's] intelligence wing is involved in the execution of suicide attacks and assassinations in Somalia, Kenya and other countries in the region, and provides logistics and support for Shebab terrorist operations throughout the Horn of Africa," it added.
Al Shabab has primarily been fighting to topple the Somalian government in Mogadishu, which is being protected by a 22,000-strong African Union army.