|U.S. Navy SEAL Team 18. (Source: Reuters / Joe Skipper)|
US forces carried out two major operations in Africa on Saturday, targeting an al-Shabaab leader in Somalia in connection with the recent Nairobi mall siege and nabbing an Al-Qaeda leader in Libya wanted for the 1998 bombings of US embassies.
The SEAL team approached the seaside house in the Somali town of Baraawe before sunrise and fired on an unidentified target, reportedly killing the al-Shabaab leader. The SEALs were forced to withdraw before the killing could be confirmed, The New York Times quoted a senior American official as saying.
The raid was reportedly in response to the recent deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall which killed more than 60 people. Al-Shabaab has claimed responsibility for the siege.
“The Baraawe raid was planned a week and a half ago,” the American security official stated. “It was prompted by the Westgate attack,” the official added referring to the Nairobi mall.
Reuters also reported the raid, citing a government official.
The firefight lasted over an hour and helicopters were called in for support, according to witnesses.
The Somali government was warned ahead of time about the attack, a senior Somali official confirmed.
The militant group’s spokesperson said that one of al-Shabaab’s fighters had been killed, but that the group had won back the assault. US official first reported that the leader of the group had been seized, but later retracted the statement.
There were also reports of a second foreign military intervention on Saturday, directed at capturing senior Al-Qaeda leader Anas al Liby, Reuters quoted a source as saying. Liby is wanted in the US for his alleged role in the 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.
On Saturday, Kenya’s military spokesman named four attackers involved in the four-day siege at the Westgate Mall in the capital of Nairobi that left more than 60 people dead in September.
The attackers are Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr, confirmed Major Emmanuel Chirchir. Al-Kene and Umayr are members of al-Hijra – a Kenyan extremist group affiliated with al-Shabaab – Matt Bryden, the former head of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia told AP via email. He added that Nabhan may be a relative of an infamous Al-Qaeda operative, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was killed in a US military strike in 2009.
It was also revealed that a Sudanese man trained by Al-Qaeda was among the leaders of the mall siege, Kenya’s government said.
Over 200 civilians were freed after the four-day bloody hostage crisis in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi.
Masked assailants armed with AK-47s and grenades launched their attack on the Westgate mall, reportedly targeting non-Muslims.
Аmong the victims of the attack were citizens from the US, Britain, France, Canada, Australia, China, South Korea, India, South Africa, the Netherlands, and Ghana. Five Americans were wounded.
The attack was claimed by Somalia’s militant al-Shabaab group, which has links to Al-Qaeda. It said the hostage siege was a response to Kenyan military operations in Somalia. The group had previously threatened to strike the mall – a popular destination for the city’s expatriate community.
The FBI is currently investigating whether any of the attackers were US citizens, after media reports alleged that some of the names of the gunmen tweeted by al-Shabaab during the siege appeared to match up with the Twitter handles of Somalian immigrants living in the US.