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Al Shabaab had claimed the raid was by British and Turkish forces
Tuesday, October 08, 2013
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US forces launched raids in Libya and Somalia on Saturday, two weeks after the deadly Islamist attack on a Nairobi shopping mall, capturing a top al Qaeda figure wanted for the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, US officials said.
The Pentagon said senior al Qaeda figure Anas al Liby was seized in the raid in Libya, but a US official said the raid on the Somali town of Barawe failed to capture or kill the intended target from the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab movement.
Liby, believed to be 49, has been under US indictment for his alleged role in the East Africa embassy bombings that killed 224 people.
The US government has also been offering a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture, under the State Department's Rewards for Justice program.
"As the result of a US counterterrorism operation, Abu Anas al Liby is currently lawfully detained by the US military in a secure location outside of Libya," Pentagon spokesman George Little said without elaborating.
Liby, also known as Nazih al-Ragye, was arrested at dawn in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, as he was heading home after morning prayers, a neighbor and militia sources said.
"As I was opening my house door, I saw a group of cars coming quickly from the direction of the house where al-Ragye lives. I was shocked by this movement in the early morning," said one of his neighbors, who did not give his name, "They kidnapped him. We do not know who are they."
Two Islamist militia sources confirmed the incident.
The Pentagon confirmed US military personnel had been involved in an operation against what it called "a known al Shabaab terrorist," in Somalia, but gave no more details.
One US official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the al Shabaab leader targeted in the operation was neither captured nor killed.
US officials did not identify the target. They said US forces, trying to avoid civilian casualties, disengaged after inflicting some al Shabaab casualties. They said no US personnel were wounded or killed in the operation, which one US source said was carried out by a Navy SEAL team.
A Somali intelligence official said the target of the raid at Barawe, about 110 miles south of Mogadishu, was a Chechen commander, who had been wounded and his guard killed. Police said a total of seven people were killed.
The New York Times quoted a spokesman for al Shabaab as saying that one of its fighters had been killed in an exchange of gunfire but that the group had beaten back the assault.
It quoted an unnamed US security official as saying that the Barawe raid was planned a week and a half ago in response to the al Shabaab assault on a Nairobi shopping mall last month in which at least 67 people died.
"It was prompted by the Westgate attack," the official said.
The New York Times quoted witnesses as saying that the firefight lasted more than an hour, with helicopters called in for air support.
The paper quoted a senior Somali government official as saying that the government "was pre-informed about the attack."
Earlier, al Shabaab militants said British and Turkish special forces had raided Barawe, killing a rebel fighter, but that a British officer had also been killed and others wounded.
Britain's Defence Ministry said it was not aware of any such British involvement. A Turkish Foreign Ministry official also denied any Turkish part in such an action.
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