Top Somali al Qaeda leader killed in U.S. operation, Pentagon says

(CNN) -- Ahmed Godane, the leader of the Somali militant group Al-Shabaab, was killed in a U.S. military operation, the Pentagon said Friday.

"The U.S. military undertook operations against Godane on Sept. 1, which led to his death. Removing Godane from the battlefield is a major symbolic and operational loss to Al-Shabaab," said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

On Monday, U.S. military conducted a strike in the African country targeting Godane, who pledged allegiance to al Qaeda. He has headed the Al-Shabaab as it has terrorized East Africa, killing Somali officials, aid workers and others in a spate of suicide bombings. Godane allegedly was behind 2013's deadly siege of a Nairobi, Kenya, shopping mall.

Prior to the strike, the U.S. military was tipped off to what Kirby called "actionable intelligence ... strong enough" to suggest Godane's whereabouts.

In response, U.S. commandos flew -- aided by drones overhead -- into an area south of the African nation's capital Mogadishu around 6:20 p.m. (11:20 a.m. ET) Monday.

In the attack's aftermath, Lower Shabelle Gov. Abdikadir Mohamed Nur Sidii characterized the attack near the port city of Barawe as so ferocious. "It jolted the entire region."

"I never heard such a huge and deafening blast as the result of the airstrike," Sidii said.

Earlier this week, Kirby didn't elaborate on exactly how much firepower was used, beyond that there were multiple Hellfire and laser-guided missiles. Somali intelligence officials counted at least four such missiles.

The targets were what the Pentagon spokesman described as "an encampment" and a vehicle inside it, not to mention Al-Shabaab leaders believed to be there.

After the attack, an Al-Shababb Twitter account said one person was killed in the attack, but it asserted Godane wasn't killed. "'Ahmed Abdi Godane' is alive and doing fine," the tweet from HSM Press Office said, calling itself an "official mujahedin account" in the Islamic land of Somalia. At the time, CNN was unable to verify the authenticity of that claim on Twitter.

CNN's Michael Martinez, Greg Botelho, Holly Yan and Omar Nor contributed to this report.