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US raid on Somalia: Al-Shabab bolsters presence in Barawe

US raid on Somalia: Al-Shabab bolsters presence in Barawe

Hundreds of newly trained al-Shabab fighters perform military exercises in the Lafofe area 18km south of Mogadishu, Somalia, taken on 17 February 2011
Al-Shabab still controls many rural parts of Somalia
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Somalia: Failed State

Somali militant group al-Shabab has sent reinforcements to the town of Barawe, where US commandos tried to seize one of its leaders on Saturday, residents have told the BBC.

The residents say about 200 masked fighters have arrived in the coastal town with heavy machine guns.

It appears that the raid was targeting a Kenyan Somali known as Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, alias Ikrima.

The operation follows last month’s attack on a Kenyan shopping centre.

Al-Shabab, which is part of al-Qaeda, has said it carried the attack, in which at least 67 people were killed.

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Al-Shabab At A Glance

  • “The Youth” in Arabic
  • Formed as a radical offshoot of the Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu, in 2006
  • Previously ran much of southern Somalia
  • Lost some popular support by banning Western aid agencies during 2011 famine
  • Estimated to have 7,000 to 9,000 fighters
  • Announced merger with al-Qaeda in 2012

The authorities have not formally identified the target of Saturday’s failed seaborne raid by US Navy Seals.

On the same day, US forces seized alleged al-Qaeda leader, Anas al-Liby from the Libyan capital Tripoli.

He is a suspected mastermind of the 1998 US embassy attacks in Africa.

The residents say the man identified as Ikrima is a senior al-Shabab leader with responsibility for logistics, who is usually accompanied by about 20 well-armed guards.

Early on Saturday morning the US forces approached a villa near the Indian Ocean coast where Ikrima is said to stay from time to time.

As they were putting up a ladder outside the building, a guard sounded the alarm, leading to an exchange of gunfire which lasted about 20 minutes, they said.

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The US forces then withdrew to the beach, got into speedboats and returned to a waiting ship, said residents of the town, which is 180km (110 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab has said that one of its fighters was killed during the attack.

The BBC’s Mohammed Moalimu in Mogadishu says that residents are now afraid to use their phones in case they are accused of being US spies.

Al-Shabab has controlled the town since 2008.

When asked on Sunday whether Somalia had been aware of the raid, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid said: “Our co-operation with international partners on fighting against terrorism is not a secret.”

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the operations in Libya and Somalia showed that the US would never stop “in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror”.

Al-Shabab has been forced out of most of the country’s major cities in the past two years but it still controls many rural parts of southern and central Somalia.

 




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