Tuesday, October 08, 2013
Pentagon officials Monday identified the target of a weekend raid in
Somalia by U.S. special forces as a Somali-born Kenyan they said had
close ties with two al Qaida militants linked to the 1998 bombing of the
U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
Pentagon spokesman George Little
said the two al Qaida operatives linked to the Somalia raid’s target,
who he named as Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, also had roles in 2002
terrorist attacks in Mombasa, Kenya, that killed 10 Kenyans and three
Little acknowledged that the predawn raid
Saturday on a seaside villa in Baraawe, Somalia, failed to capture
Abdikadir, who is also known as Ikrima, but he said it sent an important
warning to the leaders of al Shabab, the al Qaida affiliate in the east
“U.S. military personnel conducted the operation
with unparalleled precision and demonstrated that the United States can
put direct pressure on al Shabaab leadership at any time of our
choosing,” Little said.
Despite the new information, questions
remained about why members of U.S. Navy Seal Team Six, a fabled U.S.
commando unit that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, had been repulsed
without their target after a 30-minute firefight.
identification of Abdikadir as the target also raised new questions
about the reason behind the raid, which earlier speculation had linked
to last month’s assault on a Nairobi shopping mall that left at least 67
people dead. Al Shabab claimed responsibility for that attack.
a Kenyan citizen of Somali descent, is thought to move frequently
between Kenya and Somalia, but in announcing that Abdikadir had been the
target, Little mentioned only his acquaintance with participants in the
1998 embassy bombings and the 2002 Mombasa attacks. The embassy
bombings were also the public rationale for the capture in Tripoli,
Libya, of a former lieutenant to al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in a
special forces raid that took place almost simultaneously as the one in
Nazih Abdul-Hamed al Ruqai, a Libyan also known as Abu
Anas al Libi, has been indicted in New York for helping plan the
bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania,
that killed more than 223 people, including two CIA agents and 10 other
Americans. Al Libi was being held aboard a Navy ship in the
Mediterranean and would likely face weeks of interrogation before being
brought to the United States for trial, intelligence analysts said.
House press secretary Jay Carney said the twin raids were conducted
under the authorization of a measure Congress passed three days after
the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
Al Libi had been one of four
people indicted in 1998 for the embassy attacks who’d not been captured
or killed. His name is also on a U.N. Security Council list of top al
Ikrima, by contrast, did not appear to be widely known even to terrorism experts.
though, said he’d been “closely associated” with two other key al Qaida
operatives, Harun Fazul and Saleh Nabhan, both of whom had been linked
to the embassy bombing.
Fazul, who was indicted in New York for
the embassy bombings, was killed in 2011 by Somali security forces at a
roadblock in that country’s capital, Mogadishu.
Nabhan, who had
not been indicted, was the former leader of al Qaida in Somalia. He died
in a Navy SEAL raid in 2009 near Baraawe, Somalia, the scene of
Saturday’s failed assault.
The weekend raids’ focus on two
figures tied to terror attacks 15 years ago appeared to be at odds with
criteria that President Barack Obama laid out for such operations in
“America does not take strikes to punish individuals,” Obama
said then in a speech at the National Defense University. “We act
against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the
American people, and when there are no other governments capable of
effectively addressing the threat.”
At a news briefing
Monday, reporters asked White House press secretary Jay Carney whether
the United States had asked the Libyan government to extradite al Libi
before launching the raid to nab him.
“What I can tell you is that
we’re in regular communication with the Libyan government on a range of
security and counterterrorism issues, and we don’t get into the
specifics of those communications,” Carney said.
Carney declined to provide more details, though he suggested that al Libi may possess valuable information about al-Qaeda.
is our position that when we are able to, we prefer to capture someone
like Mr. al Libi, and that’s what we did in this case,” Carney said.
Little intimated that the Somalia government may have been given notice of the raid there.
in partnership with the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia,
the United States military will continue to confront the threat posed by
In his National Defense University speech, Obama
noted that the United States had “helped a coalition of African nations
push al Shabab out of its strongholds” during earlier fighting in
Carney said Obama signed off on both the Libya and
Somalia raids conducted Saturday, but he stressed that they were two
separate approvals for two different operations.
to note that although it occurred at the same time, these were separate
operations, approved separately,” Carney said. “And when an approval
like this happens, there is obviously discretion given to commanders as
to when they initiate and fulfill those missions. So it is a coincidence
that they happened at the same time.”