The U.S. Defense Department confirmed Monday that it tried but failed to capture a top leader of the Somali radical Islamist group Al Shabaab last weekend.
In a communique, Pentagon spokesman George Little said that the Navy's SEAL Team Six was given the task of capturing Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, a Kenyan of Somali origin known as "Ikrima" and who is one of the main leaders of the Al Shabaab terrorist group, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda.
The U.S. government had not provided many details about the incursion into Somalia to try and nab Ikrima, an operation that coincided with another successful U.S. anti-terrorist strike in Libya.
"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 Qaeda and its associated forces," said Little in the Pentagon statement.
"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," he added.
According to different military sources cited by U.S. media outlets, the operation was unsuccessful because the SEAL team encountered more resistance than expected and, after a firefight lasting 15 or 20 minutes, opted to withdraw without having managed to find their target.
U.S. forces took no casualties in the raid.
"Working in partnership with the government of the Federal Republic of Somalia, the United States military will continue to confront the threat posed by al-Shabaab. The United States military has unmatched capabilities and could rely on any of them to disrupt terrorist networks and plots," Little said.
He also said that Ikrima was intimately associated with the dead Al Qaeda militants Harun Fazul and Saleh Nabhan.
Those men had roles in the 1998 terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Kenya and the 2002 attacks on a hotel and an airline in Mombasa, Kenya, that resulted in the deaths of Kenyan and Israeli citizens, including children, Little said.
On Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that the incursion targeting Ikrima and the one undertaken in Libya were not parts of a coordinated operation, but rather they simply occurred by chance at the same time, although both were approved by President Barack Obama.
The Delta Force operation in Tripoli resulted in the capture of the alleged mastermind behind the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania: Nazih al Ruqai, alias Abu Anas al Libi. EFE