U.S. forces carry out raids in Somalia and Libya targeting terror suspects

WASHINGTON -- Navy SEALs carried out a predawn raid Saturday against a suspected Shabab leader in Somalia who is believed to have planned the group's deadly attack last month on a shopping mall in Kenya, two U.S. officials said.

Also Saturday, a Libyan Al Qaeda leader wanted in connection with the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa was reportedly captured in Tripoli, Libya.


A U.S. official said the Somalia raid involved commandos storming a beachfront house in a town not far from Mogadishu. It remained unclear whether the target of the raid was killed or even was present.

"At this point we can't confirm his status.  He may not have been there, or could have been killed or injured," a U.S. official said.

The operation was one of the most significant by the U.S. military in Somalia in years and it indicates that the Obama administration considers the Shabab, a militant group that pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda last year, a growing threat to the U.S. and its allies in Africa. The group claimed responsibility for the Sept. 21 attack at a Nairobi shopping mall that left almost 70 people dead.

The raid also points to a growing willingness to put U.S. troops on the ground to fight the Shabab after years of trying to contain the threat by using drones and by backing African troops sent to Somalia in an effort to stabilize the war-torn country.

The official said the location of the Shabab leader was recently pinpointed by intelligence intercepts, part of a growing effort to track the group's senior ranks using surveillance drones, electronic intercepts and contacts with friendly Somali clan leaders.

The raid was approved by President Obama after he was briefed on the intelligence, the official said.

For years, the U.S. has avoided putting troops in Somalia, a vestige of the bloody battle 20 years ago in Mogadishu when 18 Americans were killed and two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down.

The raid Saturday was the first major U.S. attack since Aden Hashi Ayro, the Shabab's leader, was killed in 2008 by a drone strike on his house, about 300 miles north of Mogadishu.

In Libya, relatives of Al Qaeda leader Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Anas al-Libi, said he was apprehended outside his house Saturday after dawn prayers, the Associated Press reported. He was on the FBI's most wanted list.


Twitter: @DavidCloudLAT