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US special forces raid terror targets in Libya and Somalia

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US special forces launched twin raids against suspected Islamist militants in north and east Africa on Saturday, in a further sign that Islamist terrorism is on the rise across African states.

The US commando raids, which targeted the al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab terrorist networks in Libya and Somalia, respectively, come two weeks after a deadly attack on a shopping mall frequented by foreigners in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, in which at least 67 people died.

Undated FBI picture of Abu Anas Al-Liby©AFPUndated FBI picture of Abu Anas al-Liby

The operation in Libya led to the detention of Anas al-Liby, an al-Qaeda leader linked to the 1998 bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people. He has been on the US list of most wanted terrorists since 2001 and the government had offered a $5m reward for information leading to his capture.

“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,” George Little, Pentagon spokesman, said without elaborating.

Mr Little also confirmed that US military personal had been involved in a “counter-terrorism operation against a known al-Shabaab terrorist” in Somalia. A US official described the target as a “high value al-Shabaab leader”, but declined to provide further detail other than an assurance that no US personnel were injured.

The raid in Somalia took place almost exactly 20 years to the day of the infamous Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993, on which the Hollywood movie Black Hawk Down was based. US special forces suffered severe casualties as they tried to capture several war lords.

 

John Kerry, US secretary of state, said the raids showed the extent to which the US would go to track people down.

“We hope that this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in the effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror,’’ he said on Sunday. “Members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organisations literally can run but they can’t hide.’’

Al-Shabaab, which controls large parts of southern Somalia, had earlier said that western forces had raided a coastal town in the east African country, killing at least one jihadi leader. The raid targeted the city of Barawe, nearly 250km south of the capital Mogadishu.

Barawe is the town where US forces in 2009 killed a senior Islamist militant who was believed to have been behind the plot to attack a hotel used by foreign tourists in Mombasa, Kenya, in 2002.

It was not clear whether the weekend operations in Libya and Somalia were related. Although al-Shabaab is affiliated with al-Qaeda, the relationship between the groups is uncertain.

The raids highlight how Africa has become a key battleground in the fight against Islamist terrorism. Washington warned earlier this year that the “dispersal of weapons stocks in the wake of the revolution in Libya, the Tuareg rebellion and the coup d’état in Mali present terrorists with new opportunities”.

In recent years militant groups such as al-Shabaab in Somalia, Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb have carried out a series of attacks in order to further their political and religious struggles against regional governments.

Counter-terrorism experts said the attack on the Westgate mall in Nairobi highlighted a worrying trend: Islamist groups expanding their capability on the African continent, targeting westerners even if they lacked the ability to strike on US or European territory.

In September, Boko Haram militants killed more than 100 people in an attack in northeast Nigeria, marking one of the deadliest raids since the group’s violent campaign started in 2009.

In January, al-Qaeda-linked militants killed 40 overseas workers in an assault at the In Amenas natural gas facility in Algeria, highlighting the vulnerability of energy supply in the continent.

“We are watching a creep-up of attacks – particularly in size and publicity,” said one security expert who advises oil groups operating in Africa and the Middle East.

Kenya’s military on Saturday released the names of four terrorists involved in the attack on the Westgate mall, which led to a four-day siege that ended only after security forces stormed the complex.

The names of the alleged terrorists – Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr – were first revealed by a local television station.

The military said at least one of the militants was a Kenyan national, which suggested that a local terrorist group may have been involved in the incident. Al-Hijra, a Kenyan Islamist group, has links to al-Shabaab.

The government in Nairobi has previously said that between 10 and 15 terrorists carried out the attack, but closed-circuit television images broadcast in local stations showed only four attackers. The pictures showed the four men walking around the shopping mall.

 Source Financial Time




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