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Monday, October 7, 2013

Kenyan Man Target Of SEAL Raid In Somalia

A United States official says the target of raid by Navy SEALs in Somalia over the weekend was a Kenyan man named Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir. A Kenyan government intelligence document names him as the coordinator of other planned attacks.

The man, also known as Ikrima, was a known operator for the Somali militant group al-Shabab.

The document says that foiled plots by Abdulkadir included plans to target Kenya’s parliament building and the United Nations office in Nairobi, as well as an Ethiopian restaurant patronized by Somali government officials.

It does not appear that Saturday’s raid resulted in the killing or capture of Abdulkadir. The U.S. official who confirmed the target of the SEAL raid insisted on anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss the matter.

Guest

Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young.

JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:

I'm Jeremy Hobson. It's HERE AND NOW. And we're learning more about those two weekend raids targeting alleged terrorists in Somalia and Libya. In a minute we'll speak with a reporter in Tripoli, where the government is asking the U.S. for more information about the capture of that Libyan terrorism suspect.

YOUNG: But first to that mysterious raid on a leader of the group Al-Shabab in Baraawe, Somalia. American officials reportedly don't think he had ties to that deadly mall attack in Nairobi, but according to a Kenyan government report, the man had plotted to attack that country's parliament building and the U.N. headquarters in Nairobi.

Eric Schmitt covers terrorism and national security issues for The New York Times. And Eric, we're reading dramatic accounts of Navy SEALs swimming to shore in Somalia but then retreating, unable to capture this man. What more do we know?

ERIC SCHMITT: Yes, so what happened here, the Navy SEALs had been focusing on this target for several days, and they thought they had a window of opportunity overnight Friday into Saturday. And they came in stealthily from the sea, from the Indian Ocean, to go after this particular target, a guy named Ikrima, who is one of the main planners of international operations for the terrorist group Shabab in Somalia.

So they came ashore, went up to his seaside villa and encountered a much greater resistance than anticipated, both from some of the Shabab fighters outside, as well as inside, and there were a number of civilians also inside this house.

So after about an hour-long firefight, they pulled back from the assault, failing in their mission to capture this guy. They killed a number of some of the Shabab fighters and possibly some civilians, as well, but had to leave the scene without the intended target.

YOUNG: Well, you quote Bruce Hoffman of the Center for Security Studies at Georgetown, saying that Al-Shabab can now lick their wounds and take some satisfaction that they repulsed the world's most powerful military. But on the other hand, they got a clear message that the U.S. was willing to intervene.

And you write about how there was great debate in Washington as to whether or not the U.S. should intervene. What was the debate?

SCHMITT: That's right. You have those at the State Department who are very wary of kind of stirring up trouble in Somalia right now. Shabab has been an organization that is not focused on the United States, per se, in a long time. Then you had the siege in the Nairobi mall with over 60 people killed. And this was, as a counterterrorism officials told me yesterday, it was kind of a wakeup call.

And the fear was this was going to be the beginning of a broader attack on Western interests or countries like Kenya who support the West in their fight against terrorism. So in the wake of that attack on the mall in Nairobi, there was a lot of what they call electronic chatter, that is communications among the various Shabab members, the terrorists.

This provided a new opportunity for U.S. counterterrorism officials, including the SEAL Team 6 that conducted this operation, to hone in on this particular guy, Ikrima, and hopefully capture him to find out more about what operations they were planning.

YOUNG: Well, we know that Navy SEALs have tangled before with Somalians. The film "Captain Phillips" is out, and it tells of the rescue of a captain from Somali pirates. But what further engagement, I mean, what do you think is ahead for what is this new - seems like a new counterterrorism method?

SCHMITT: Well, clearly Africa has become even more of a focus than it's been up until now. You had essentially simultaneous raids going down over the weekend, first in Somalia as the one we've been discussing, as well as the operation in Tripoli, Libya, to go after an al-Qaida figure there who's been charged in the United States and responsible for the plotting of the two attacks against U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, somebody the United States has been after for years.

So I think what you're seeing now is the United States, obviously with the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi over a year ago, also in Libya; you've had unrest in Mali where the French have had to send forces in to rebuff the al-Qaida affiliate there; ongoing concerns in Somalia and then of course in nearby Yemen. Africa and Northern Africa is a real hot spot right now.

YOUNG: Eric Schmitt of The New York Times, thank you so much.

SCHMITT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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