October 5, 2013

Report: Military strike in southern Somali town

Pre-dawn strike in same village U.S. Navy Seals killed al-Qaida operative four years ago

By Abdi Guled, Jason Straziuso and Kimberly Dozier
The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

In this Dec. 8, 2008 file photo, armed al-Shabab fighters just outside Mogadishu prepare to travel into the city in pickup trucks after vowing there would be new waves of attacks against Ethiopian troops. International military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013, against foreign fighters in the same southern Somalia village where U.S. Navy SEALS four years ago killed a most-wanted al-Qaida operative, officials said. The strike comes exactly two weeks after al-Shabab militants attacked Nairobi’s Westgate Mall, a four-day terrorist assault that killed at least 67 people in neighboring Kenya. Al-Shabab has a formal alliance with al-Qaida, and hundreds of foreign fighters from the U.S., Britain and Middle Eastern countries fight alongside Somali members of al-Shabab. )

The Associated Press

The Libyan al-Qaida leader also wanted for the bombings, al-Libi, is believed to have returned to Libya during the 2011 civil war that led to the ouster and killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

His brother, Nabih, said al-Libi was parking outside his house early Saturday after dawn prayers when three vehicles encircled him, smashed the car's window and seized his gun before grabbing him and taking him away. The brother said el-Libi's wife saw the kidnapping from her window and described the abductors as foreign-looking armed "commandos."

Al-Libi is on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head.

A resident of Barawe who gave his name as Mohamed Bile said militants in Barawe closed down the town in the hours after the assault, and that all traffic and movements have been restricted. Militants were carrying out house-to-house searches, likely to find evidence that a spy had given intelligence to a foreign power used to launch the attack, he said.

"We woke up to find al-Shabab fighters had sealed off the area and their hospital is also inaccessible," Bile told The Associated Press by phone. "The town is in a tense mood."

Al-Shabab later posted pictures on the Internet of what it said was U.S. military gear left behind in the raid. Two former U.S. military officers identified the gear as the kind U.S. troops carry. Pictures showed items including bullets, an ammunition magazine, a military GPS device and a smoke and flash-bang grenade used to clear rooms. The officials could not confirm if those items had come from the raid.

In Kenya, military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir on Saturday gave the names of four fighters implicated in the Westgate Mall attack as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr, names that were first broadcast by a local Kenyan television station.

Matt Bryden, the former head of the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, said via email that al-Kene and Umayr are known members of al-Hijra, the Kenyan arm of al-Shabab. He added that Nabhan may be a relative of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the target of the 2009 Navy SEALs raid in Barawe.

The identities of the four men from the mall attack came as a Nairobi station obtained and broadcast the closed circuit television footage from Westgate. The footage shows four attackers calmly walking through a storeroom inside the complex, holding machine guns. One of the men's pant legs appears to be stained with blood, though he is not limping. It is unclear if the blood is his, or that of his victims'.

Government statements shortly after the four-day siege began on Sept. 21 indicated between 10 to 15 attackers were involved, but indications since then are that fewer attackers took part, though the footage may not show all of the assailants.

 

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