WASHINGTON: US Navy Seals were hunting a top commander of the Islamist
Al Shabaab group in a weekend raid in Somalia, a US official revealed yesterday, as Washington defended twin operations in African nations as legal.
Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, a Kenyan of Somali origin, who is a foreign fighter with Shebaab and goes by the alias Ikrima, was the target of Saturday’s assault on the southern Somali port of Barawe, the US official said.
The Kenyan is linked with two Al Qaeda operatives, now deceased, who played roles in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the official said.
The two Al Qaeda operatives, named as Fazul Abdullah Muhammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, are also believed to have played a role in the 2002 attacks against Israeli targets in Mombasa, Kenya.
The strike in Somalia follows last month’s siege of an upscale shopping mall in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, in which 67 people were killed.
The New York Times said that Ikrima, identified as a top Al Shabaab planner, was not linked to that attack but the raid was prompted by fears that he could be planning a similar assault on Western targets.
It was not immediately clear what happened to Abdulkadir, in one of the two US raids at the weekend, with US Navy Seals also targeting and capturing alleged Al Qaeda operative, Abu Anas
Al Libi, in Libya.
The Times cited a US official as saying Abdulkadir had likely been killed in the strike on his beachfront villa, but the Seals were forced to withdraw before confirming the kill.
US Secretary of State John Kerry yesterday insisted the capture of Libi, who was indicted in the 1988 bombings, was legal amid a furious response from Tripoli, which demanded answers about what it called his “kidnap.”
Libi had a $5m FBI bounty on his head, and Kerry described him as “a key Al Qaeda figure, and he is a legal and an appropriate target for the US military.”
Libi had committed “acts of terror” and had been “appropriately indicted by courts of law, by the legal process,” Kerry told reporters on the sidelines of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Indonesia.
“The United States of America is going to do everything in its power that is legal and appropriate in order to enforce the law and protect our security,” he said.
But when asked whether the United States had informed Libya before the raid, Kerry refused to say. “We don’t get into the specifics of our communications with a foreign government on any kind of operation of this kind,” he said.
His defence of the operation came after Libya on Sunday demanded an explanation from Washington.
“The Libyan government has been following the reports of the kidnap of one of the Libyan citizens wanted by the authorities in the United States,” a government statement said.
“As soon as it heard the reports, the Libyan government contacted the US authorities to demand an explanation.” AFP