Shabaab claims it ‘repelled’ raid by Western special operations forces

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Al Qaeda’s affiliate in East Africa claimed it repelled a nighttime raid by Western special operations forces in the southern Somali coastal town of Barawe. The location of the purported raid is the same town where a top al Qaeda and Shabaab commander was killed by US special operations forces four years ago.

“Local witnesses reported on VOA Somali Service that unidentified foreign troops ‘came from the coast with boats and helicopters’ and raided a house in Barawe around 2am local time Saturday morning,” according to Garowe Online.

Shabaab’s military spokesman, Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab, confirmed the report and said that his fighters “repelled” the attack.

“We fought back against the white infidel soldiers with bombs and bullets, and they ran back to their boats,” he said according to Garowe Online. “One member of Al Shabaab was killed and the white infidel soldiers failed their mission. We found blood and equipment near the coast in the morning.”

Fighting between Shabaab forces and the unidentified Western troops lasted for more than an hour, Abu Musab claimed.

US Navy SEALs carried out the raid in Barawe which targets a senior Shabaab commander, according to The New York Times. It is unclear if the commander was killed in the raid. The Department of Defense’s spokesman confirmed the raid was carried out but did not provide details.

“This operation was aimed at capturing a high value al-Shabaab terrorist leader,” an unnamed Department of Defense official said on background. “No US personnel were injured or killed. US personnel took all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties in this operation and disengaged after inflicting some al Shabaab casualties. We are not in a position to identify those casualties.”

Barawe, which is halfway between Kismayo and Marka, is a known command and control hub for Shabaab. The coastal town is fully under the control of Shabaab, despite an offensive that was launched by Somali and African Union forces more than two years ago. Kenyan forces attacked Shabaab forces from the south and took control of Kismayo, but halted their advance after taking the southern city. Shabaab still controls much of the rural areas of Somalia as well as several smaller towns.

US and French special operations forces are known to have operated in Somalia in the past. In one of the two most high-profile raids, US special operations forces killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in Barawe in September 2009. Nabhan was one of the most sought out al Qaeda operatives in Africa. He was wanted for involvement in al Qaeda’s 1998 suicide attacks against US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He served as a top leader in both Shabaab and Al Qaeda East Africa, and also was instrumental in facilitating the official merger between al Qaeda and Shabaab.

Most recently, in January 2013, French commandos launched a failed raid in the town of Bula Marer to free a French intelligence official who was captured by Shabaab in 2009. Shabaab fighters repelled the attack and captured a French commando, who later died in custody. Shabaab released photographs of the captured soldier and weapons and gear seized during the raid, and then executed the French intelligence official.

The US has also conducted several air strikes and naval bombardments against Shabaab in the past. In one such attack, Sheikh Aden Hashi Ayro, the military commander of Shabaab, was killed during a US airstrike in May 2008.

Today’s reported raid took place just two weeks after Shabaab forces launched a deadly, Mumbai-like raid on an upscale mall in Nairobi, Kenya, that resulted in the deaths of more than 65 civilians, including Europeans and Americans. Shabaab assault teams executed civilians and controlled the mall for 80 hours before explosions led to the collapse of a section of the four-story mall, which ended the siege.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Sammy says:

    SEALS or SBS?

  • Fed Cop says:

    Damn good job it shows the US isn’t letting up on its effort to take the fight to the enemy. The frequency may have appered to have slacked off but I think that only means we’re getting more selective.

  • Nolan says:

    Perhaps this is just an attempt by al-Shabaab to cover up a critical hit to their leadership structure? If Mukhtar Abu Zubayr “Godane” was killed by Navy SEALS or some other Western special forces, al-Shabaab would essentially be due to fall apart. Godane’s faction of al-Shabaab is known to operate in Barawe, so it could be possible that he was the target of the strike. In this case a pure decapitation strike would be truly detrimental to the organization because of the current state of strife its leadership find themselves in. Bill, what’s your opinion on the leadership rift? It was almost immediately presented as a possibility that Godane sold out Harun Fazul to be killed. See, and this theory continues to gain steam today Fazul being named as the leader in East Africa, and OBL’s refusal to allow Godane into the fold no doubt helped cause this rift. Furthermore, with Fazul’s two British deputies, Bilal al-Berjawi and Mohamed Sakr, being removed by drones in early 2012 ( ) , the door was left wide open for Godane to align himself with Zawahiri and merge forces. After years of being blocked by Fazul, Godane seems to have achieved his goal. The violence this year only seems to encourage the theory. There is an obvious split between Godane and a faction led by Aweys and Robow. The latter two want to keep their jihad relatively local while Godane wants to seemingly go global. The book Kill or Capture goes into detail on the fact that Robow was a controversial target for the Obama Administration because of his wishes to remain local. However, the full cooperation of all involved would seem vital for the organization of al-Shabaab to survive. But despite this, Godane seems to be targeting everyone who speaks against him. Everyone already knows that Omar Hammami was killed due to this agenda. But surprisingly, Ibrahim al-Afghani (Ibrahim Haji Jama Miad) who had actually sided with Godane originally was also killed on his superior’s orders Miad was killed just months after writing an open letter to Dr. Zawahiri asking for him to intervene amidst the leadership debacle al-Shabaab had found itself in. In the letter he is highly critical of Godane The biggest question here I suppose, is why would Zawahiri not intervene? He directly intervened during the visible dispute between Julani in Syria and Abu Dua in Iraq. That dispute never seems to have turned violent. This one did. Zawahiri went against the direct wishes of bin Laden in allowing al-Shabaab to officially join al-Qaida and then doesn’t speak up amid rumors that his own subordinate Godane had killed Fazul, Berjawi, Sakr and other al-Qaida veterans. Nor does he speak up in the instance where it is blatantly obvious that Godane has killed Miad (who was also al-Qaida trained). It seems Godane could only manage to feel comfortable with these decisions if he had Zawahiri’s full support. It also would appear to be the only way the leadership could survive. The point is, I’ve heard it mentioned that Zawahiri is complicit in these actions and is in support of Godane’s takeover. Is that your opinion as well?

  • irebukeu says:

    “repelled”?? Nice spin.
    Could the caprtured equipment be empty shell casings perhaps?
    just wondering
    I wonder how bad their losses were since shabaab claims to have no bodies in their custody of the repelled raiders
    Dieppe = Repelled
    My guess is; Mystery attackers 1, Shabaab 0

  • Nolan says:

    Seems to have been Godane who was targeted and it does appear to have been a raid conducted by US Special Forces. A simultaneous raid in Libya captured Nazeh al-Ruqai “Abu Anas al-Libi,” the al-Qaida operative who cased out our Nairobi Embassy. According to FBI agent Ali Soufan, he was arrested in England early last decade but was released and escaped the country. In his possession at the time was the fabled Manchester document.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I don’t subscribe to the Omar Hammami nonsense that Godane had all of Al Qaeda East Africa’s top leaders (Nabhan, Fazul, Berjawi, etc.) set up to be killed. Hammami even claimed that Abu Talha al Sudani was killed by the US in a drone strike (he wasn’t, he died in fighting in 2007). Additionally, the OBL doc on ties with Shabaab are completely misunderstood. You can see my analysis here:
    Bin Laden told Godane to hide the ties between the two so as not to hurt foreign aid coming into Somalia; he also told Godane that he could tell the fighters they were indeed part of AQ. Read the whole thing, and follow the links back to my reporting on the merger in 2010 and 2008 with Nabhan. So if Godane wanted to merge with AQ, and Fazul and Nabhan were also for it, why is that motivation for him to knock them off?
    Godane has been consolidating control of Shabaab factions, and he’s been ruthless. I thought the killing of Afghani was a bridge too far, but clearly it wasn’t. Regarding the killing of Hammami, I suspect all parties were happy to see Hammami gone. And there are reports that Robow is not on the outs with Godane, but he in fact remains loyal.
    Unfortunately, I think many people are taking the claims of divisions within Shabaab to mean the group is on its deathbed. Shabaab is in far, far better shape than the Islamic Courts was after the Ethiopian invasion in 2007. It still holds turf, its leadership is intact (even if there is some rifts/infighting, which should be expected), and its made itself part of the global jihad, which opens the doors to more resources.

  • Nolan says:

    Bill, I must admit I glossed over some of those documents in the past with bin Laden’s specific instructions to Godane and then subscribed to the current belief of the press that it was an outright refusal of “membership.” Thanks for pointing out your previous analysis as well as those documents. I completely agree that Hammami’s statements in general are nonsensical, and understand that Sudani and Nabhan were indeed not killed due to the activities of their fellow jihadists. I still think the timing of al-Shabaab’s “official” merger with Zawahiri and the deaths of Fazul, Sakr, and Berjawi are suspicious at least. The question also still remains as to why Zawahiri would not try and quell the leadership problems between Miad and Godane. I think there was something to be gained for Zawahiri in the disregarding of bin Laden’s advice of caution. Also something to be gained with his full support of Godane. Perhaps Zawahiri did not particularly like Fazul and wanted Godane as the only militant answering to him from the region? Zawahiri is not bin Laden after all, so perhaps not everyone was keen on the new “Emir.” It’s been repeatedly stated that he lacks a certain charisma and Fazul was around through the 90s long enough to have probably picked up on this. Godane was then allowed to proclaim from the rooftops that he and his men were al-Qaida, and now he’s completely loyal to Zawahiri. I understand it is all speculation and random thoughts. I must say, I don’t at all subscribe to a theory I’ve heard mentioned by some recently that Godane has acted as an informant, and was used by US intel to help take out the above mentioned militants. I imagine the people suggesting this had a weird terrorism version of Whitey Bulger in mind. However, against that ridiculous claim the Zawahiri-Godane angle seemed plausible. Also, as a complete side note, since we mentioned Saleh Nabhan above, it was released earlier that his nephew/relative Omar was one of the Westgate attackers: Plus, it was mentioned that a Sudanese al-Qaida member actually led the attack. Perhaps Abu Bara al-Sudani is the Hassan you wrote on a few days ago?

  • Caleb says:

    I like the ‘spin’ they put on it. I am curious as to what the actual results of the raid were, but I assume we will find out in the coming days.
    Regarding the raid that captured al-Libi: Very, very good work on the part of the intelligence community and the military. Kudos to them. I was fairly excited to see that headline on my BBC mobile app.

  • Michael Green says:

    @Fed Cop
    “Dam good Job” ???
    The fact is that the Obama Administration has been very lax in combating Islamic terrorism.
    Proof of this is that, it has been over one year since Muslim Jihadists attacked the US consulate in Libya, brutally torturing Ambassador Stevens, then killing him and also killing a State Department official and two Navy Seals.
    The where about’s of the above perpetrators are well known, yet the White House has taken no action against them.
    What Obama is good at is arming and supporting Islamist terrorists, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and sending weapons to the so called ‘rebels’ in Syria, which in reality are Al Qaeda terrorist groups.

  • Dan says:

    The Americans have been busy, Libya, Somalia, and I believe they played role in the death of Sheik Ibrahim Ismail the cleric gunned down with three other men in Kenya.

  • gb says:

    Why do SOF capture any of these scum bags, do capture versus kill missions put our warriors in unnecessarily risky situations?

  • Hanzala says:

    you can not understand and never understand..Seyh Godane or another high ranking Mujahedeen leader killing may be important but not so much impact on Jihad cause..You martryed Seikh Usame bin Laden but tell me do you defeat Al Qaida? not..and you can be sure you never win..because you are wage war with Allah ..not never is impossible…

  • Alexander says:

    It’s always good news when Islamic terrorists are killed or captured, but now knowing the whole history over the past few decades, starting around when the American soldier was shot and killed on a high jacked plane in Lebanon (?) and thrown out the door of the plane on the tarmac, I’ve become very cynical. We seem to be aimless as to who and when we take out these scum of the earth. To me these recent events are the tail wagging the dog with the current government shutdown and the Dems looking like fools. Which begs to ask, are we letting the military, plan and target these scum or is Obama control when, which likely makes “how” much more dangerous to the bad asses we ask to deal out American justice. I thank God no US troops were injured in these two operations.

  • B says:

    @ Green
    Hmm, yes, look how easy he has been on militant Islamists –
    Seriously, man, the stats are literally right next to your post. Leave the partisan fantasy at home.

  • Gerry301 says:

    No one has asked “What went wrong or why”. The next question should be “What will the follow up be?”.

  • mehtevas says:

    @Michael Green
    Geopolitics: Grandmasters playing chess. How does one win a “civil” war/uprising? By tipping the balance of power ie Libya. We can still see the instability in that country (and others), and it will be like that for quite some time. No problem, important parts can be controlled via militias/war lords/strong men.
    Now, Syria is in a far more interesting area geopolitically. It all revolves around natural gas.
    Russia wasn’t being the “bad guy” for no reason. 150+bcm of gas sales per year is worth protecting. Assad is basically their guarantee of protecting the Russian gas monopoly into Europe. Sure Qatar and Saudi are interested, and they are not happy that Russia is basically blocking the supply route via Assad.
    Surprise, they happen to be the largest backers of the rebels. Turkey is involved as well, purely for the profit it would get of the pipeline passing through it.
    Pipelines are ridiculously expensive to build (Physically and politically). Pipelines also need stability. Who provides stability? Dictators/Absolute monarchies/bs democracies. So initially they attempted to engage with Assad, who was not interested, protecting Russia’s interests. They got upset, and now we have an “uprising”.
    Russia was smart to pick up on Kerry’s slip to Assad: Disarm your chemical weapons or be bombed. I could only imagine the grins on Putins and Lavrovs faces. Assad, you will stick around, and we will provide top cover. Not so sure about the Saudis and Qataris game plan though, they might just blackmail Assad via funding the rebels until he gives in, and then they pull the plug on the funding. End of the “civil war”
    This isn’t new, brainstorming has been going on for sometime (70s), and the EU recently made a report in 2008:
    Second Strategic Energy Review – An EU Energy Security and Solidarity Action Plan.
    Religion and the Jihadis are simply pieces on a chessboard and too dumb to see it, which is great. Energy security is everything, and explains most of the conflicts that have occurred over the past 20 years. Keep yourself up to date with anything to do with pipelines, you can predict future conflicts.
    I love geopolitics, it’s never clear, even when you think you are beginning to understand the “bigger picture”, there is always an even bigger picture.

  • cp4ab0lishm3nt says:

    Never believe these freaks. Wait for a few more days or weeks and you see some extremists may turn up dead or missing. The US Special Forces have perhaps to keep this quiet and for the storm to die down. Flattery and victory in this business is dangerous. Its better to remove the threat than hail a “V” sign.


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