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US Navy SEALs Forced to Retreat During Unsuccessful Somali Anti-Terror Raid

Navy SEALs (Photo: US Navy)

Navy SEALs (Photo: US Navy)

Elite US commandos were forced to retreat during a daring yet ultimately unsuccessful Saturday raid on a seaside home in Somalia suspected of housing Islamist militants responsible for the recent deadly terrorist attack on a shopping mall in Kenya.

Members of SEAL Team Six, the same elite US Navy unit that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011, were reportedly on a mission to kill Ikrima, a Kenyan of Somali origin who authorities claim is a commander of the al-Qaeda-linked Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. The US raid targeted the al-Shabaab stronghold of Baraawe, 130 miles (210 km) southwest of the capital city of Mogadishu, where foreign fighters were believed to be living in a beach house. Al-Shabaab leader Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, who has also been named as a possible target of Saturday’s US raid, has claimed responsibility for last month’s terror attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya in which at least 72 people were killed.

The Guardian reports the SEALs swam ashore from speedboats before dawn prayers and stormed the two-story home. A fierce firefight ensued.

“Nearly an hour before the morning prayer I heard dogs bark and I got up, but within minutes I heard small gun fire towards the direction of the beach,” Baraawe school teacher Mohamed Hassan told the Associated Press. “The shooting continued and continued. Soon it became an exchange of fire. Then I heard one big explosion and two other explosions occurred.”

“In the morning we saw people gathering near the house the US forces had targeted and there was a lot of blood everywhere,” Hassan added. “The al-Shabaab fighters told us not to go in the direction of the house. I saw one dead and two others injured but they were not very critical.”

US officials told the AP that the Navy SEALs encountered fiercer-than-expected resistance and aborted their mission after a 15-20 minute firefight. No US casualties have been reported. Al-Shabaab militants claimed to have captured some minor American equipment, including small arms ammunition and body armor, that local residents also claim to have seen.

US officials said little about the details of Saturday’s raid, although one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the New York Times that the operation was “planned a week and a half ago” and “was prompted by the Westgate attack.”

A Somali government spokesman said the raid was “carried out by American forces and the Somalian government was pre-informed about the attack.”

According to a statement from al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Mus’ab:

Early on Saturday morning… white soldiers attacked a house resided in by some members of the mujahideen leaders in Somalia. They came from a waiting speedboat from a warship and as they were approaching the house, our mujahideen fighters repulsed them. They ran away. We chased them until they reached the seaside where they urgently boarded their speedboat.

The aborted Baraawe mission was the second US military raid in Africa on Saturday. US forces also successfully captured Libyan al-Qaeda leader Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, aka Abu Anas al-Liby, in Tripoli and are now transporting him, most likely to New York, to face terrorism charges in connection with attacks on US troops as well as the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

Speaking at an economic summit in Indonesia, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that Saturday’s raids “make clear that the United States of America will never stop in the effort to hold those accountable who conduct acts of terror.”

“Members of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations literally can run but they can’t hide,” Kerry added, although it was clearly members of Navy SEAL Team Six who were doing the running on Saturday.

Saturday’s failed mission occurred 20 years to the week after the infamous ‘Black Hawk Down’ battle in which Somali militants killed 18 US troops who were part of what the Bill Clinton administration called a humanitarian intervention force.

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