Twin U.S. raids in Africa suggest new anti-terror strategy

TRIPOLI, Libya, Oct. 7 (UPI) -- Attacks by U.S. Special Forces apparently aimed at killing or capturing jihadist leaders in Libya and Somalia last weekend indicate deepening concern in Washington at the rise of Islamist terrorism across Africa.

The twin operations, one by U.S. Navy SEALs and the other by the Army's Delta Force, suggest President Barack Obama's administration, armed with detailed intelligence, is now zeroing in on high-value jihadist commanders and planners.


It was unclear whether the two raids were related.

But the militant captured in Libya was wanted by U.S. authorities for involvement in the twin bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, Aug. 7, 1998, and worked with terrorists who have strong links to al-Shabaab, the group targeted in Somalia.

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The fact the Americans were pursuing two specific jihadist leaders in specific buildings -- one on the Mediterranean Sea, the other on the Indian Ocean -- indicates U.S. commanders had real-time intelligence, which in turn suggests the raids were the product of an overall plan involving high-tech surveillance systems and agents on the ground.


However, given the political paralysis gripping Washington, it's possible the raids were ordered to boost the fortunes of an administration beset by foreign and domestic issues.

There was also speculation the raids carried out by the Joint Special Operations Command marked a shift in strategy by Obama away from the highly controversial drone strikes against al-Qaida groups that stirred immense resentment of the United States abroad because of collateral civilian deaths and intrusion on other countries' sovereignty.

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Obama acknowledged in May the drone policy was clearly counter-productive because it drove Pakistanis, Yemenis and other people into the arms of al-Qaida and its allies.

Whether or not the two raids carried out early Saturday mark a shift in policy or tactics, the results were mixed.

In Tripoli, Libya, Delta Force, augmented by FBI agents, captured an important al-Qaida figur known as Anas al-Liby, 49, who was one of the last of the players in the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States who had long operated in East Africa.

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Al-Liby a computer specialist whose real name is Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, was indicted by a federal grand jury in New York for the 1998 bombings that killed 224 people. He had a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head.


He was snatched in a dawn raid by at least four carloads of armed men, some speaking Arabic with Libyan accents, outside his home in Tripoli, and then swiftly whisked off to a U.S. warship in the Mediterranean.

In Somalia, Navy SEAL Team Six, the unit that assassinated Osama bin Laden in Pakistan May 2, 2011, went ashore just before sunrise near the Indian Ocean town of Barawe, aiming to grab a Kenyan of Somali origin known by the codename Ikrimah but left empty-handed.

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Ikrimah's true name is Abdikadar Mohamed Abdikadar and he's reputed to be a prominent leader in al-Shabaab. He was holed up in a beachfront villa with a bodyguard detail, and possibly other al-Shabaab commanders.

It was unclear why he was targeted. But he'd been linked to Mohammed Abdullah Fazul, al-Qaida's chief in East Africa, and his deputy, Saleh Nabhan, who masterminded the 1998 embassy bombings and attacks in the Kenyan port of Mombasa Nov. 28, 2002. Both are dead.

In the Mombasa strike, several Israelis were killed when a suicide bomber blew up the lobby of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel while two missiles were fired at an Israeli airliner carrying 200 holidaymakers back to Israel. Both missed.


On Saturday, the SEALs ran into heavy fire as they moved on the two-story beach house and pulled out after a 15-minute gun battle, covered by attack helicopter from a U.S. warship offshore.

The Pentagon said the team withdrew to prevent civilian casualties. Saturday's raids came two weeks after al-Shabaab fighters seized an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, and battled security forces for 80 hours.

At least 67 people, mostly civilians, were killed in one of the worst terrorist attacks in sub-Saharan Africa since the 1998 bombings.

The Nairobi carnage highlighted how Islamist groups are expanding their operations in Africa. Saturday's raids shows the United States may be stepping up its fight against them.

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