US Navy Seals ‘targeted senior al-Shabaab commander’ in Somalia raid

A team of US Navy Seals reportedly carried out the strike in Somalia on Saturday against al-Shabaab, the radical Islamist group behind last month’s shopping centre massacre in Kenya.

The fishing town is in the heart of an area controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliate.

The fishing town is in the heart of an area controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliate.  Photo: ALAMY

By Jon Swaine in New York and David Blair

11:11PM BST 05 Oct 2013


They are said to have attacked a senior al-Shabaab commander’s seaside villa in the southern town of Baraawe, where Ahmed Abdi Godane, the group’s leader, has stayed in the past.

The Seals, the special operations force that killed Osama Bin Laden in 2011, were said by The New York Times to have approached from the sea before engaging in an hour-long battle.

“The attack was carried out by the American forces and the Somali government was pre-informed,” a Somali official told the newspaper. Referring to the Nairobi mall where at least 67 people were killed last month, a US official said: “It was prompted by the Westgate attack”.

The mission’s success was not immediately clear. The Seals were initially reported to have captured senior al-Shabaab leader yet were later said to believe he had been killed in the fight.

A US official told the newspaper the Seals were forced to withdraw before the target’s death could be confirmed. Helicopters arrived at one point to provide air support, witnesses said.

An al-Shabaab spokesman claimed his group had beaten back the US assault but said one fighter had been killed. Another report said as many as seven militants were killed.

Al-Shabab recruits walk down a street on March 5, 2012 in the Deniile district of Somalian capital, Mogadishu (AFP/GETTY)

Mohamed Bile, a resident of Barawe, 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.

Spokesmen for the Pentagon and White House had repeatedly declined to respond to questions throughout Saturday about whether US forces were involved in the raid.

Al-Shabaab earlier claimed that British and Turkish special forces carried out the raid and that one SAS officer was killed. However, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said that “no UK forces at all” were involved. Turkey’s government made a similar denial. France, which has carried out raids in Somalia in the past, also said that none of its soldiers was deployed.

Last month al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the assault on the Westgate shopping centre in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, which claimed at least 67 lives.



Warships from the US, Britain and France have a permanent presence off the Somali coast. Al-Shabaab has been expelled from Mogadishu and Kismayo, the biggest port in southern Somalia, leaving Barawe as one of the few population centres still under its control.

France and America both have permanent military bases in neighbouring Djibouti, giving them the ability to mount raids into Somalia

The most recent special forces operation in Somalia took place in January when French soldiers tried to free an intelligence agent held captive by al-Shabaab. The operation, mounted by 50 troops with six helicopters, failed and the hostage was killed.

The latest attack, carried out in the early hours of Saturday, was believed to be the most significant US operation in Somalia since 2009, when a team of SEALs attacked Barawe and killed six al-Shabaab fighters, including one senior commander.

Separately, a leading suspect in the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 was reported to have been either captured or killed by US forces on the streets of Tripoli, the Libyan capital.

Abu Anas el-Liby, whose real name is Nazih Abd al Hamid al-Ruqhay, was indicted by a New York court in 2000 for playing a role in planning the deadly attacks.

Since then the Libyan terror suspect has been one of America’s most wanted fugitives. The FBI had offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to his capture.