Washington DC, Crescent-online | October 7, 2013, 20:12 pm EDT
In what was billed as a gung-ho Navy Seals assault on Al Shabab safe house in the Somali town of Barawe over the weekend ended in disaster for the Americans. After a fierce gun-battle in which the lightly armed Al Shabab fighters held their ground, the Americans were beaten back and they fled the scene leaving some equipment behind.
The US defense secretary George Little said the target of the raid was Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, also known as Ikrima. According to the Pentagon, Abdulkadir is a "top commander" in the paramilitary group al-Shabab, an allegation denied by the group.
Abdiasis Abu Mus'ab, the military spokesman for al-Shabab denied in a voice recording posted on a pro-al-Shabab website that any senior commander of the group was inside the house at the time. "We confirm that only security personnel were inside the house. No such high-target person was staying in the house."
According to information that has emerged from the town, the Seals came in a boat and landed on the port in the early hours of Saturday October 5. They split into two groups to carry out their assault on a house where they alleged the “high value target” was supposed to be.
One group of Seals went inside the house while a second group guarded the outside. Al Shabab fighters put up a determined fight and were able to force the Americans to flee the scene leaving behind some equipment. A Somali elder in Barawe said the Americans stormed the house and began shooting.
"The worst shooting took place inside where one al-Shabab fighter was killed. Al-Shabab had more fighters inside and they fought extremely hard against the Americans."
The Americans targeted Abdulkadir because he was named as the lead planner in an internal Kenyan national intelligence service report in the Westgate shopping mall attack of September 21. Sixty-seven people died in the attack that lasted for more than a week. The Kenyans alleged that al-Qaida's core leadership in Pakistan sanctioned the plot to carry out attacks in Kenya in late 2011 and early 2012. Targets included the parliament, the UN and military bases if the plan had gone ahead.
It is noteworthy that while the US is working closely with al-Qaeda and its affiliates in Syria to overthrow the government of Bashar al-Asad, it has targeted the group in Somalia and the broader Horn of Africa region.
In his 30s, Abdulkadir is a Kenyan citizen of Somali origin. He is known to have lived for a time in Mombasa, Kenya, where he recruited fighters for al-Shabab. He has traveled in the Horn of Africa and further afield including Eritrea, South Africa and Sudan.
He came to Somalia in 2006 and was among a group of African fighters from al-Qaida who joined al-Shabab, according to Mohamed Jibril, a former member of the Islamic Courts Union that held sway over much of Somalia before the rise of al-Shabab.
Abdulkadir is also said to be close to current al-Shabab leader Ahmed Godane and has trained hundreds of young men at the Ambaresa training camp near the town of Barawe. He is an expert in bomb modification and in using firearms.
The Pentagon has alleged that Abdulkadir was a close associate of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the person on the FBI's most wanted list for planning the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and to have taken over his position on behalf of al-Qaida in East Africa following Abdullah's death in 2011.
The US has accused Abdulkadir of a number of other attacks in East Africa.
Since the election of Barack Obama as president of the US in 2009, the Horn of Africa has become an especially contested area. Washington has been battling to bring Somalia and the surrounding countries under its control, first breaking up the Islamic Courts Union in favor of the paramilitary group Al-Shabab and then attacking the para-military group. Since 2011, US military strikes against Al-Shabab have dramatically escalated. According to estimates, as many as 21 US military strikes in Somalia since 2007 have killed up to 169 people.