But the official, who spoke about the covert operation on condition of anonymity, said the crack U.S. unit didn't accomplish its goal, which was to capture a "high-value" al-Shabaab militant, The Washington Post reported. The raid was terminated before the terrorist leader could be taken into custody because of a fear of inflicting civilian casualties, the official said.
"U.S. personnel took all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties and disengaged after inflicting some al-Shabaab casualties," the official said. "We are not in a position to identify those casualties."
Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to provide details of the raid, but called it a counter-terrorism operation against a known al-Shabaab terrorist."
The attack occurred two weeks after al-Shabaab carried out a bloody terrorist attack on a shopping mall in neighboring Kenya, and targeted what a Somali intelligence source said were "high-profile" foreign targets, Britain's The Independent said.
Reports from Barawe, about 150 miles south of the capital Mogadishu, said the commandos came ashore in small boats under cover of darkness and may have been supported by helicopters.
SEALs sprung a similar attack in the same town in 2009 and killed a senior al-Qaida operative.
A spokesman for the military wing of al-Shabaab, which has strong ties to al-Qaida, issued a statement blaming unspecified Western nations, the Shabelle Media Network reported.
"They tried to attack a house which belongs to the mujahidin but we retaliated back and forced them to flee. They escaped using speedboats and left behind some equipment which they used," spokesman Abu Mus'ab said in a recorded audio posted in the Islamist website.