BREAKING: US Navy SEAL Killed Shabab Leader in Somali – Kenya Massacre. News Today
US officials: A senior Shabab leader ‘believed to be killed’ in Navy SEAL raid on Somali militants
(NYTimes) NAIROBI, Kenya — A Navy SEAL team seized a senior leader of the Shabab militant group from his seaside villa in the Somali town of Baraawe on Saturday, American officials said, in response to a deadly attack on a Nairobi shopping mall for which the group had claimed responsibility.
The SEAL team stealthily approached the beachfront house by sea, seizing the unidentified target in a predawn firefight that was the most significant raid by American troops on Somali soil since commandos killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Qaeda mastermind, near the same town four years ago.
The Shabab leader was believed to have been killed in the firefight, but the SEALS were forced to withdraw before that could be confirmed, a senior American official said.
Such operations by American forces are rare because they carry a high risk, and indicate that the target was considered a high priority. Baraawe, a small port town south of Mogadishu, the Somali capital, is known as a gathering place for the Shabab’s foreign fighters.
“The Baraawe raid was planned a week and a half ago,” said an American security official, speaking on the condition of anonymity about a classified operation. “It was prompted by the Westgate attack,” he added, referring to the mall in Nairobi that was overrun by militants two weeks ago, leaving more than 60 dead.
Witnesses in the area described a firefight lasting over an hour, with helicopters called in for air support. A senior Somali government official who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed the raid, saying, “The attack was carried out by the American forces and the Somali government was pre-informed about the attack.”
A spokesman for the Shabab, which is based in Somalia, said that one of its fighters had been killed in an exchange of gunfire but that the group had beaten back the assault. It was unclear whether the SEAL team’s target was taken alive or killed, American officials said.
The deadly assault on the Westgate shopping mall was a stark reminder of the power and reach of the Islamist group, which had a series of military setbacks in recent years and was widely viewed as weakened.
The F.B.I. sent dozens of agents to Nairobi after the shopping mall siege to help Kenyan authorities with the investigation. United States officials fear that the Shabab could attempt a similar attack on American soil, perhaps employing several of the group’s Somali-American recruits.
Another United States official said it was still unclear whether any Americans were involved in the Westgate mall episode, though there were growing indications that fewer attackers took part in the siege than the 10 to 15 militants the government had previously announced.
A spokesman for the Kenyan military said Saturday that it had identified four of the attackers from surveillance footage. Local news media reported their names as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and a man known only as Umayr. “I can confirm that those are the names of the terrorists,” said Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir, the spokesman.
The footage, broadcast on Kenyan television on Friday night, showed four of the attackers moving about the mall with cool nonchalance, no hint in their demeanor that they had stormed a shopping center and massacred dozens of people, much less that they feared an imminent counterassault from Kenyan security services.
One loitered in the grocery checkout aisle, talking on his cellphone. Another slouched in a storage room like a worker on break.
At least one of the four men, Mr. Nabhan, is Kenyan, and believed to be related to Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the Qaeda mastermind killed four years ago near Baraawe.
The elder Mr. Nabhan was a suspect in the bombing of an Israeli hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002 and the attacks on the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
He was one of the most wanted Islamic militants in Africa when American commandos killed him in September 2009 in an audacious daytime attack. Four military helicopters shot at two trucks rumbling through the desert, killing six foreign fighters, including Mr. Nabhan, and three Somali members of the Shabab.
Mr. Nabhan was of Yemeni descent but was born in Mombasa, on Kenya’s coast. Kenyan news media reported that the younger Mr. Nabhan also came from Mombasa, and was among the Kenyans who traveled to Somalia to train and fight with the Shabab.
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