Al-Jazeerah: Cross-Cultural Understanding
News, October 2013
US Empire News:
US Army Commandos Kidnap Abu Anas Al-Liebi, Navy Seals Fail to Kidnap Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, in Two Raids on Libya and Somalia
October 5, 2013
US forces hit extremists behind E. Africa attacks
KIMBERLY DOZIER, ABDI GULED and JASON STRAZIUSO 7 hours ago
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) —
In a stealthy seaside assault in Somalia and in a raid in Libya's capital, U.S. special forces on Saturday struck out against (suspects) who have carried out terrorist attacks in East Africa, snatching a Libyan al-Qaida leader allegedly involved in the bombings of U.S. embassies 15 years ago but aborting a mission to capture a suspect linked to last month's Nairobi shopping mall attack after a fierce firefight.
A U.S. Navy SEAL team swam ashore near a town in southern Somalia before militants of the al-Shabab rose for dawn prayers, U.S. and Somali officials told The Associated Press. The raid on a house in the town of Barawe targeted a specific suspect related to the mall attack, but the operation did not get its target, one current and one former U.S. military official told AP.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the raid publicly.
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little confirmed that U.S. military personnel had been involved in a counterterrorism operation against a known al-Shabab in Somalia, but did not provide details.
U.S. officials said there were no U.S. casualties in either the Somali or Libyan operation.
The Somali raid was carried out by members of SEAL Team Six, the same unit that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout in 2011, another senior U.S. military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly.
But this time, SEAL Team Six members encountered fiercer resistance than expected so after a 15-20 minute firefight, the unit leader decided to abort the mission and they swam away, the official said. SEAL Team Six has responsibility for counterterrorism activities in the Horn of Africa.
Within hours of the Somalia attack, the U.S. Army's Delta Force carried out a raid in Libya's capital, Tripoli, to seize a Libyan al-Qaida leader wanted for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220 people, the military official said. Delta Force carries out counterterrorism operations in North Africa.
The Pentagon identified the captured al-Qaida leader as Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Abu Anas al-Liebi, who has been on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list since it was introduced shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Al-Liebi "is currently lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside of Libya," Pentagon spokesman Little said.
Saturday's raid in Somalia occurred 20 years after the famous "Black Hawk Down" battle in Mogadishu in which a mission to capture Somali warlords in the capital went awry after militiamen shot down two U.S. helicopters. Eighteen U.S. soldiers were killed in the battle, and it marked the beginning of the end of that U.S. military mission to bring stability to the Horn of Africa nation. Since then, U.S. military intervention has been limited to missile attacks and lightning operations by special forces.
A resident of Barawe — a seaside town 240 kilometers (150 miles) south of Mogadishu — said by telephone that heavy gunfire woke up residents before dawn prayers.
The U.S. forces attacked a two-story beachside house in Barawe where foreign fighters lived, battling their way inside, said an al-Shabab fighter who gave his name as Abu Mohamed and who said he had visited the scene.
A separate U.S. official described the action in Barawe as a capture operation against a high-value target. The official said U.S. forces engaged al-Shabab militants and sought to avoid civilian casualties. The U.S. forces disengaged after inflicting some casualties on fighters, said the official, who was not authorized to speak by name and insisted on anonymity.
The leader of al-Shabab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Ahmed Godane, claimed responsibility for the attack on the upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, a four-day terrorist siege that began on Sept. 21 and killed at least 67 people. A Somali intelligence official said the al-Shabab leader was the target of Saturday's raid.
An al-Shabab official, Sheikh Abdiaziz Abu Musab, said in an audio message that the raid failed to achieve its goals.
Barawe has seen Navy SEALs before. In September 2009 a daylight commando raid in Barawe killed six people, including Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, one of the most-wanted al-Qaida operatives in the region and an alleged plotter in the 1998 embassy bombings.
The Libyan al-Qaida leader also wanted for the bombings, al-Liebi, is believed to have returned to Libya during the 2011 civil war that led to the ouster and killing of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.
His brother, Nabih, said al-Libi was parking outside his house early Saturday after dawn prayers when a convoy of three vehicles encircled his car. Armed gunmen smashed the car's window and seized al-Liebi's gun before grabbing him and taking him away. The brother said al-Liebi's wife saw the kidnapping from her window and described the abductors as foreign-looking armed "commandos."
Al-Liebi, who was believed to be a computer specialist for al-Qaida, is on the FBI's most-wanted list with a $5 million bounty on his head. He was indicted by a federal court in the Southern District of New York, for his alleged role in the bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, on August 7, 1998.
Libyan officials did not return calls seeking comment on al-Liebi's abduction.
In Somalia, a resident of Barawe who gave his name as Mohamed Bile said militants 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.
"We woke up to find al-Shabab fighters had sealed off the area and their hospital is also inaccessible," Bile told The Associated Press by phone. "The town is in a tense mood."
Al-Shabab later posted pictures on the Internet of what it said was U.S. military gear left behind in the raid. Two former U.S. military officers identified the gear as the kind U.S. troops carry. Pictures showed items including bullets, an ammunition magazine, a military GPS device and a smoke and flash-bang grenade used to clear rooms. The officials could not confirm if those items had come from the raid.
Straziuso reported from Nairobi, Kenya, and Dozier from Charlotte, North Carolina. Associated Press writers Rukmini Callimachi in Nairobi and Matthew Lee in Bali, Indonesia, also contributed to this report.
By Ghaith Shennib and Abdi Sheikh
TRIPOLI/MOGADISHU (Reuters) - U.S. raids in Libya and Somalia that captured an Islamist wanted for bombing its Nairobi embassy 15 years ago show Washington's determination to hunt down al Qaeda leaders around the globe, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday.
Libyan Nazih al-Ragye, better known by the cover name Abu Anas al-Liby, was seized by U.S. forces in Tripoli on Saturday, the Pentagon said. A seaborne raid on the Somali port of Barawe, a stronghold of the al Shabaab movement behind last month's attack on a Kenyan mall, failed to take or kill its target.
"We hope this makes clear that the United States of America will never stop in its effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror," Kerry said during a visit to Bali.
"Those members of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations literally can run but they can't hide," Kerry said. "We will continue to try to bring people to justice."
The twin raids, two years after a U.S. Navy SEAL team killed al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, demonstrated American reach at a time when Islamist militants have been expanding their presence in Africa - not least in Libya following the Western-backed overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi.
Libya's government, wary of an Islamist backlash, demanded an explanation for the "kidnapping" of one of its citizens.
The target of the Somali operation was unclear but a U.S. official was quoted as saying it was planned in response to the Nairobi mall attack two weeks ago in which at least 67 were killed. That highlighted the risk of Somalia's rumbling civil conflict destabilizing a resource-rich continent where Islamists have been on the rise from west to east in recent years.
Launched in the early hours of Saturday, the Somali raid appears to have featured a beach landing in hostile territory that was followed by an extended firefight. U.S. officials said SEALs conducted the raid and had killed al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab fighters while taking no casualties themselves. Somali police said seven people were killed during the operation.
Somalia's Western-backed government, still trying to establish its authority after two decades of civil war, holds little sway in Barawe, 110 miles south of Mogadishu.
Asked of his involvement in the U.S. operation, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said: "We have collaboration with the world and with neighboring countries in the battle against al Shabaab."
In Tripoli, the seemingly bloodless operation to snatch Liby as he returned home from dawn prayers at a mosque in the capital may have involved some cooperation with the friendly but weak Libyan administration - though the government, facing anger from Islamist militias, issued a public denial.
"The Libyan government is following the news of the kidnapping of a Libyan citizen who is wanted by U.S. authorities," read a statement from the office of Prime Minister Ali Zeidan. "The Libyan government has contacted U.S. authorities to ask them to provide an explanation."
Liby, who the FBI says is 49, has been under U.S. indictment since 2000 for his alleged role in bombing the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which killed 224 people. Of more pressing concern for Washington, however, may have been that al Qaeda appears to be establishing itself in Libya today.
With President Barack Obama wrestling with the legal and political difficulties posed by trying al Qaeda suspects held at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, Liby may be more likely to face trial in New York, where the indictment was filed.
Liby, who had once been granted political asylum from Gaddafi in Britain, was charged with 20 other people including bin Laden and current al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. The U.S. government offered a $5 million reward for helping capture Liby.
Charges relating to him personally accuse him of discussing the bombing of the Nairobi embassy in retaliation for the U.S. intervention in the Somali civil war in 1992-93 and of helping reconnoiter and plan the attack in the years before 1998.
"As the result of a U.S. counterterrorism operation, Abu Anas al-Liby is currently lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside of Libya," Pentagon spokesman George Little said without elaborating.
U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean, as well as bases in Italy and Germany, would provide ample facilities within a short flight time from the coastal city to mount an arrest operation.
Neighbors and Libyan Islamist militia sources said the capture of Liby appeared to go smoothly: "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 neighbor in the residential district in southern Tripoli.
"They kidnapped him. We do not know who they are."
Abdul Bassit Haroun, a former Islamist militia commander who works with the Libyan government on security, said the U.S. raid would show Libya was no refuge for "international terrorists".
"But it is also very bad that no state institutions had the slightest information about this process, nor do they have a force which was able to capture him," he told Reuters.
"This means the Libyan state simply does not exist."
He warned that Islamist militants, like those blamed for the fatal attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi a year ago, would hit back violently: "This won't just pass," Haroun said.
"There will be a strong reaction in order to take revenge because this is one of the most important al Qaeda figures."
Since Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011 in an uprising backed by Washington and its allies, well armed warlords have contested control of the thinly populated desert state and its vast oil resources. Fighters - and weapons - from Libya played a part in an Islamist revolt in Mali last year and in the related al Qaeda assault on a gas plant in the Algerian desert in January.
The Pentagon confirmed U.S. military personnel had been involved in an operation against a known (member of) al Shabaab in Somalia, but gave no more details.
Local people in Barawe and Somali security officials said troops came ashore from the Indian Ocean to attack a house near the shore used by al Shabaab fighters.
One U.S. official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the al Shabaab leader targeted in the operation was neither captured nor killed.
U.S. officials said troops, to avoid civilian casualties, disengaged after inflicting casualties on al Shabaab. They said no U.S. personnel were wounded or killed in the operation, which one U.S. 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.
Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters that foreign forces had landed on the beach and launched an assault at dawn that drew gunfire from rebel fighters in one of the militia's coastal bases.
Britain and Turkey denied his suggestion that their forces had been involved in the attack and taken casualties.
The New York Times quoted an unnamed U.S. security official as saying that the Barawe raid was planned a week and a half ago in response to the al Shabaab assault in neighboring Kenya: "It was prompted by the Westgate attack,: the official said.
Barawe residents said fighting erupted at about 3 a.m. on Saturday (midnight GMT).
"We were awoken by heavy gunfire last night, we thought an al Shabaab base at the beach was captured," Sumira Nur told Reuters from Barawe by telephone. "We also heard sounds of shells, but we do not know where they landed," she added.
(Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton in Bali, Mark Hosenball, Phil Stewart, Warren Strobel and David Brunnstrom in Washington and Feisal Omar in Mogadishu; Writing by David Brunnstrom and Alastair Macdonald; editing by Philippa Fletcher)
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