Navy SEALS abandoned their mission to capture an Islamist terrorist
suspected of planning the mall attack in Kenya after encountering strong
resistance at the man's beach-side stronghold in Somalia, U.S.
officials told Reuters and NBC.
Wednesday, October 09, 2013
The SEALS mission took
place the same day that Army special forces captured a wanted terrorist
in Libya in a raid in Tripoli. Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his
alias Anas al-Libi, is being held in a U.S. warship.
The target of the SEALS was Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar, Kenyan and Western security agencies say. Reuters
said Abdikadar is a liaison between commanders of the al-Shabab
Islamist group in Somalia with terrorist cells linked to al-Qaeda in
Kenya, Yemen and the Afghanistan-Pakistan area, said J. Peter Pham,
director of the the Atlantic Council's Africa Center.
was involved in last month's attack on a Nairobi shopping mall that
killed 67 people, and Abdikadar was likely a major facilitator of that
attack, Pham said.
Abdikadar has so many connections in the
militant world that "he would have valuable information about extremist
groups, and more current information than al-Libi," Pham said. "Al-Libi
was higher ranked but much of his knowledge was more historical."
is an ethnic Somali Kenyan with connections to al-Qaeda in East Africa,
al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al-Qaeda central in the
Afghan-Pakistan area, Pham said. He was a protégé of two al-Qaeda
leaders in East Africa who were both killed in recent years by U.S.
special forces, Pham said. He is also known as Ikrima, a name he took
from an early opponent of the Muslim prophet Mohammed who later became
one of his most effective commanders and died leading the 636 battle
that ended Byzantine rule in Syria.
Ikrima also has his own
connections both to al-Hijra, al-Shabab's Kenyan arm, and to the Muslim
Youth Center, an important support element within Kenya for al-Shabab
that supplies it with foreign recruits, Pham said.
network of safe houses in Nairobi and in the Kenyan port city of
Mombasa, and his access to foreign fighters, Ikrima is more likely to
have played a facilitating role in the Westgate mall attack than
al-Shabab commander Ahmed Abdi Godane, who ordered the attack, Pham
The SEALS executed the raid to nab Abdikadar in Barawe, a
militant stronghold on Somalia's southern coast. But the team pulled out
after a gunbattle made the operation too risky, Reuters reported.
The attackers fought their way into a two-story house near the beach
where foreign fighters resided but fled after local militants rushed to
the scene to capture a foreign soldier, the Associated Press reported,
citing an al-Shabab fighter who gave his name as Abu Mohamed. That
effort was unsuccessful, Mohamed said.
The aborted attack is
evidence of a new U.S. strategy to try to minimize civilian casualties
when conducting operations to kill or capture militant leaders, Pham
"The object of the raid was to take him alive," Pham said.
"When that was not an option they didn't call in an airstrike, which
would have leveled the compound."
They could have done that, but
it would have killed a number of non-combatants, which does affect our
counterterrorism efforts, and gives extremists a valuable propaganda
tool, Pham said. "That's evidence of a new strategy" in keeping with a
policy described by President Obama in May, Pham said.
spent several years in Norway and is suspected of having plotted to
attack Kenya's parliament, assassinate top Kenyan politicians and hit
U.N. offices in Nairobi, according to a Kenyan intelligence report
leaked to media and also obtained by Reuters.
"He is a
planner who is relentless in coming up with operations in Kenya," said
Matt Bryden, a former coordinator of the United Nations Somalia and
Eritrea Monitoring Group. "He is one of the thinkers, planners,
Experts say he was mentored by
al-Qaeda operatives Fazul Mohammed and Saleh Nabhan, both now dead, who
played roles in the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombing in Nairobi and a 2002
attack on an Israeli hotel and passenger jet in the coastal city of
Mohammed was killed in 2011 by Somali government forces
in 2011; Nabhan died in Barawe in 2009 in a U.S. special forces