MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Foreign military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike Saturday in the same southern Somalia village where U.S. Navy SEALS four years ago killed a most-wanted al-Qaida operative, officials said.
The strike was carried out in the town of Barawe in the hours before morning prayers against what one official said was "high-profile" targets. The strike comes exactly two weeks after al-Shabab militants attacked Nairobi's Westgate Mall, a four-day terrorist assault that killed at least 67 people in neighboring Kenya. The leader of al-Shabab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Ahmed Godane, claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was in retaliation for Kenya's military deployment inside Somalia.
A resident of Barawe said by telephone that heavy gunfire woke up residents before dawn prayers. An al-Shabab fighter who gave his name as Abu Mohamed said "foreign" soldiers attacked a house, prompting militants to rush to the scene to capture a foreign soldier. Mohamed said that effort was not successful.
A Somalia intelligence official said the targets were "high-profile" foreigners in the house. The intelligence official said the strike was carried out by a foreign military. Somalia's nascent army does not have the ability to carry out a stealth night-time strike. A second intelligence official also confirmed the attack. Both insisted on anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
Foreign militaries — often the U.S. but not always — have carried out several strikes inside Somalia in recent years against al-Shabab or al-Qaida leaders. The two groups have formal ties.
In September 2009 a daylight commando raid carried out by Navy SEALs 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 bombings at U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 250 people.
Military raids carried out by troops on the ground carry the risk of a troops being killed or captured, but they also allow the forces to collect bodies or other material as evidence. Missile strikes from sea of unmanned drones carry less risk to troops but increase the chances of accidental civilian deaths.