US special forces have captured a wanted al Qaeda operative in Libya. According to the New York Times, Navy SEALs also launched a raid in Somalia in retaliation for the Nairobi Westgate Mall massacre.
The United States launched raids against senior Islamist militants in Libya and Somalia over the weekend, capturing an al Qaeda operative linked to the 1998 twin bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
US special forces captured Abu Anas al-Libi in broad daylight outside of the Libyan capital, Tripoli. The 49-year-old al-Libi has been wanted by the US since at least 2000, when a New York court indicted him for the East African embassy bombings. The FBI had put a $5 million (3.68 million euros) bounty on his head.
According to his brother Nabih, al-Libi was parking his car outside of his home after dawn prayers, when three cars encircled him. His car window was smashed in, his gun was seized and he was abducted. Al-Libi’s wife described the abductors as foreign-looking armed commandos.
Pentagon confirms raid in Somalia
Meanwhile, a Navy SEAL team targeted a senior member of the al-Shabab militant group during a raid on a house in the Somali coastal town of Barawe, the New York Times reported on Saturday, citing unnamed American officials.
The target of the predawn raid was believed to have been killed, one of the unnamed US officials told the Times. But the SEAL team was forced to withdraw before it could confirm the militant’s death, the official added.
“The Barawe raid was planned a week and a half ago,” an American security official told the Times on the condition of anonymity. “It was prompted by the Westgate attack,” the official said.
The Pentagon confirmed that the raid took place, but did not say if the target was killed or captured.
“I can confirm that yesterday, October 4, US military personnel were involved in a counterterrorism operation against a known Shabab terrorist,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a press release, according to the AFP news agency.
Barawe is a coastal town located 180 kilometers south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. US special forces have launched at least one raid near Barawe in the past, assassinating senior al Qaeda member Saleh Ali al Saleh Nabhan four years ago.
Britain, Turkey deny involvement
Earlier on Saturday, al-Shabab claimed that British and Turkish special forces were behind the raid. But the British Defense Ministry and the Turkish Foreign Ministry denied the accusations.
“The bungled operation was carried out by white people, who came with two small boats from a larger ship out at sea…,” al-Shabab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told the AFP news agency. “One Shabab guard was killed, but reinforcements soon came and the foreigners fled.”
Kenya identifies Westgate Mall terrorists
The special forces raid in Somalia comes two weeks after al-Shabab militants laid siege to the Westgate Mall in Nairobi. The terrorist attack, Kenya’s worst in 15 years, left 67 people dead.
The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the massacre, saying it was in retaliation for Kenya’s troop presence in Somalia.
On Saturday, the Kenyan military indentified four of the militants involved in the assault on the Westgate Mall: Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr. All four were killed in the attack.
Major Emmanuel Chirchir, a spokesman for the Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), said al-Sudani was the ringleader. Al-Sudani was a Sudanese national and “an experienced fighter and sharpshooter” trained by al Qaeda, Chirchir said.
Nabhan was a Kenyan of Arab origin born in the coastal city of Mombasa. Al-Kene is believed to be from the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Both Nabhan and Al-Kene were known members of al Hijra, according to Matt Bryden, former head of the UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea. Al Hijra is the Kenyan arm of the al-Shabab militant group.
The full name and background of Umayr are not yet known, according to Chirchir. Kenyan authorities have said that as many as 15 militants took part in the Westgate Mall attack and that nine of them were in custody.
slk/lw (AP, AFP, Reuters)