This morning the Washington Post reports that Navy SEALs carried out an overnight raid on the Somali seaside home of a leader of the al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab, U.S. officials said Saturday. A U.S. official said the aim of the raid, which took place Friday, was to take a “high-value” al-Shabab militant into custody, but the militant was not seized.
The AP report on the Somalia raid adds:
A resident of Barawe who gave his name as Mohamed Bile said militants in Barawe 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.
In Kenya, military spokesman Maj. Emmanuel Chirchir on Saturday gave the names of four fighters implicated in the Westgate Mall attack as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and Umayr, names that were first broadcast by a local Kenyan television station.
Matt Bryden, the former head of the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea, said via email that al-Kene and Umayr are known members of al-Hijra, the Kenyan arm of al-Shabab. He added that Nabhan may be a relative of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the target of the 2009 Navy SEALs raid in Barawe.
Separately, another U.S. official confirmed that the United States was involved in an operation in Libya on Saturday to capture a member of al-Qaeda who is suspected of involvement in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, a Libyan known by the alias Anas al-Libi, was detained in Tripoli. A second American official said Washington intends to bring Ruqai to the United States to stand trial.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said Saturday night that Ruqai is “currently lawfully detained by the U.S. military in a secure location outside Libya.”
The United States has had a $5,000,000 bounty on Ruqai’s head. The Post notes that he has been indicted in the Southern District of New York for his alleged role in the bombing of U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi on Aug. 7, 1998. And this: “Saturday’s operation in Tripoli appeared to represent a coup for U.S. intelligence agencies in a country struggling to establish a civilian government after decades of authoritarian rule and a short civil war in 2011 that gave rise to powerful militias.” Other than the Benghazi assault/murders, we haven’t heard much about developments in Libya since the overthrow of the late dictator engineered by the president’s leadership from behind.
The AP report includes some additional information of interest. It notes that al Libi/Ruqai 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 said al-Libi was parking outside his house early Saturday after dawn prayers when three vehicles encircled him, smashed the car’s window and seized his gun before grabbing him and taking him away. The brother said al-Libi’s wife saw the kidnapping from her window and described the abductors as foreign-looking armed “commandos.”
The perpetrators of the Benghazi assault/murders remain at large, but you have to think their time is coming.
UPDATE: The New York Times account of the raids here is also must reading. It gives the name of the Libyan al Qaeda leader as Abu Anas, which appears elsewhere as Abu Anas al Libi.