Target of SEAL raid in Somalia tied to top al Qaeda leaders

The Oct. 5 raid by US Navy SEALs in the Somali coastal town of Barawe that targeted Shabaab’s external operations chief Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, who is also known as Ikrima, may have killed “two senior foreign fighters.” Ikrima was linked to two top al Qaeda leaders who have been killed by the US over the past four years.

The Department of Defense confirmed that Ikrima was the target of the raid, and also confirmed that he was not captured during the operation:

Ikrima is a top commander in the terrorist group al-Shabaab, an al-Qa’ida affiliate. Ikrima is closely associated with now-deceased al-Qa’ida operatives Harun Fazul and Saleh Nabhan, who played roles in the 1998 bombing of the United States embassy in Nairobi, Kenya and in the 2002 attacks on a hotel and airline in Mombassa, Kenya that resulted in the deaths of Kenyan and Israeli citizens, including children.

The goal of the operation was to capture Ikrima under legal authorities granted to the Department of Defense by the Authorization to Use Military Force (2001) against al-Qa’ida and its associated forces.

While the operation did not result in Ikrima’s capture, U.S. military personnel conducted the operation with unparalleled precision and demonstrated that the United States can put direct pressure on al-Shabaab leadership at any time of our choosing.

Ikrima was in close contact with al Qaeda’s general command in Pakistan and was behind a plot to conduct attacks in Kenya that have since been foiled. From The Associated Press:

In the internal report by Kenya’s National Intelligence Service, Abdulkadir is listed as the lead planner of a plot sanctioned by al Qaeda’s core leadership in Pakistan to carry out multiple attacks in Kenya in late 2011 and early 2012. The AP has previously reported that those attacks, linked to the Somali Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab, were disrupted.

The report, which was leaked to AP and other media in the wake of the Sept. 21 terror attack on Nairobi’s Westgate Mall that killed more than 60 people, lists Samantha Lewthwaite — a Briton known in British media as the “White Widow” — as one of several “key actors” in the plot to attack Parliament buildings, the UN Office in Nairobi, Kenyan Defence Forces camps and other targets. The plotters also intended to assassinate top Kenyan political and security officials, the report said.

The National Intelligence Service report, in an entry dated exactly one year before the Sept. 21 mall attack, said al-Shabab operatives were in Nairobi “and are planning to mount suicide attacks on undisclosed date, targeting Westgate Mall and Holy Family Basilica.” Two suspects were believed in possession of suicide vests, grenades and AK-47 assault rifles, the report said.

The report also warns of “Mumbai-style attacks,” referring to the assaults in Mumbai, India in 2008 in which operatives stormed several locations with guns and grenades

While Ikrima has not been directly linked to the Westgate Mall assault, given his role in planning similar plots, it is highly probable that he had a hand in the deadly operation. Ikrima’s ties to Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda’s former leader in East Africa and a senior Shabaab commander, who was killed at a checkpoint in Mogadishu in 2011, also make it likely that he was involved in Westgate. Somali troops found documents in which Shabaab detailed its desire to conduct “International Operations,” or terror attacks outside Somalia. One document detailed how Fazul plotted for attacks in London that would be “similar to … Mumbai.”

Two foreign jihadists reported killed in Barawe raid

According to Shabelle, “a Swedish Somali and a Sudanese national,” were killed in the attack. Their deaths have not been confirmed and Shabaab has denied that any senior leader was killed.

The Sudanese Shabaab commander, said to be Awab al Uqba or Sheikh Abdirahim, was an officer in Amniyat, Shabaab’s intelligence arm, Shabelle reported. The “Swedish Somali” is said to be Abdi Qadar; his position in Shabaab was not disclosed.

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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  • Paul D says:

    Who funds Al Shabaab? Follow the money to see who are true enemies are Cough Arab penisula cough

  • gb says:

    Not for nothing, but in such a lawless area as Somalia, and with good enough Intel to launch a snatch raid, why not level the place with cruise missles? Any team size element is gonna be quickly out gunned once these cockroaches get stirred up. So glad it didn’t result in a black hawk down scenario.

  • Arjuna says:

    @gb, I was so sad to read your comment as an American and a vet. Those “cockroaches” may be misguided enemy fighters, but they are still human beings. Thankfully, your racist, exceptionalist attitude doesn’t prevail at higher levels of the US govt and military and the raid was actually called off to avoid killing women and children. If we win the fight against terrorism it will be in large part because our values (including our universal respect for human life) prove more attractive than the enemy’s. That said, glad all the SEALs made it out safe. (PS Africa was where I became cynical, FWIW, and I make no prescriptions or predictions that we’ll ever get a place as far gone as Somalia anything near close to functioning, but it doesn’t help to dehumanize the OPFOR. We’re too smart for that.)

  • Paul D says:

    Barawe should be targeted by African Union troops or by US Navy asap.

  • Devendra says:

    I am surprised that the Seal Team 6 did not request strike at the buildings hiding these terrorists. I understand Ikrima, the terrorist who the Seal Team 6 was hunting, was in the compound. A few missiles would have solved the problem.
    What Gives?

  • mehtevas says:

    Intel is more valuable. Few pieces on the puzzle board are missing.

  • James says:

    I strongly object to this strategy of ‘capture for intel purposes.’ The lives of our soldiers are simply too valuable for the risk involved, especially our very best ones (like Seal Team 6).
    The plan probably involved a 2-phase approach. Plan A being to capture the target, if possible, with Plan B to eliminate the target if Plan A failed.
    These thugs need to just be eliminated. They have no intel value, IMHO. Like trying to capture the devil, imagine how much intel value we could get from him, duhhh ! ! !
    We see what happened to this dumb strategy in the afore-mentioned example. Thank God it wasn’t much worse.

  • gb says:

    @Arjuna, Ya I’m a vet too and I stand by my comments…they are savages and should be treated as such…your “misguided enemy fighters” are terrorists…see Mall massacre in Nairobi (the targeted group) claimed responsibility….keep your high moral ground, I’ll take sudden devastating victory any day when it saves Americans..

  • wallbangr says:

    My understanding (and this is from the open source, within which there appear to be a number of people “in the know” talking out of school, “off the record,” of course) is that it was a snatch ONLY mission. If so, there wasn’t a Plan B, as James speculated. As such, as soon as they realized they could not get him alive, they aborted. There may be more to the story (i.e., that women and children were nearby so going kinetic was ruled out). Whatever the case, I disagree that capture-for-interrogation is a pointless strategy. Ask the guy in Libya who is now in the brig on a ship headed back to the States. Humint from one of these guys, especially from that part of the world, would be extremely valuable.

  • James says:

    With all due respects to your position, like I stated, trying to get ‘valuable intel’ from these kind of thugs would be as ridiculous as trying to get such from the devil if we could catch him (imagine how much ‘valuable intel’ we could get from him, yeah right ! ! ! ).
    In fact, if it were up to me, our guys would summarily execute these thugs (preferably by hanging) at the point of capture (if they were lucky enough to be wounded or captured). These thugs are not soldiers, they are war criminals of the worst sort. I’d at best give them a summary military tribunal like what they did to the Nazi war criminals at Nuremburg.
    Also, notice that my proposed solution would permanently resolve the problem of the ‘revolving door’ situation these terrorists are now enjoying by going to prison and then being conveniently broke free by their fellow terrorist thugs.
    A few well-placed sharpshooters or even cruise missiles or even drone strikes would have taken care of this guy permanently. I believe your idea of getting valuable intel from these kind of individuals is mostly illusory and would be of limited value at best. The risks involved are simply not worth it.

  • Arjuna says:

    @gb, these enemy fighters take cruelty to a new level (I’m reminded of the eye-gougings, castrations and sharpened fingers among mall victims), but we need to treat the enemy (and noncombatants) as human in order to prevail. If we forget their humanity, we lose ours. I’ve seen this happen. It’s not worth the price. Though I concur with blert that the child soldiers are present and problematic. If they carry a weapon, kill them, period. There is only a limited tactical advantage to be gained by “going native” with “wantonness” on the attack, and in this day of omnipresent cameras/witnesses, it is a self defeating strategy because it will come back to bite us, even if it’s militarily advantageous. One of the reasons nobody challenged the execution of the UBL raid was because of the extreme professionalism shown by DevGru members in limiting the killing to MAMs. Had they wasted Bin Laden’s family, that would have been a propaganda win for the enemy. Americans love life, and they will fight to protect it.

  • wallbangr says:

    @James: believe me, there is valuable intel to be had in those parts. Who knows what kind of humint assets we have on the ground there, but someone as high level as him would most likely be a treasure trove of information. If they knew enough to locate him and then came to understand that there were women and children in the vicinity, they can certainly track him again for a kinetic or sharpshooter mission. As much as people are groaning that it was a missed opportunity, at the very least it sent a message that he is safe nowhere and at no time.


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