The latest airstrike carried out by the US forces is suspected to have killed the leader of the Somalia-based Islamist militant group al-Shabab.

Though it is yet to be confirmed but officials suspect the drone attack, which targeted a series of convoys in the al-Shabab stronghold of Barawa, has killed the militant leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also referred as 'Abu Zubeyr'.

"There is a very strong probability that he is dead… this requires verification on the ground, which is not simple," a western security source told the AFP.

Leader's death not confirmed

Similar observations have also been echoed by local officials, as the African insurgent group is said to have begun to find a successor.

"But we are still assessing the situation," a Somali official was quoted as saying.

Unverified local reports suggest the extremist group has denied that its leader was killed, but admitted there was an attack.

The US had earlier carried aerial attack, raining Hellfire missiles near the port city of Barawa. The Pentagon has not released the specifics of the operation.

"We are assessing the results of the operation and will provide additional information as and when appropriate," Pentagon press secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters shortly after the announcement of the offensive.