Thursday, September 17, 2009

Somali al-Qaida group confirms death of leader

Somali al-Qaida group confirms death of leader: "CAIRO — A Somalia-based al-Qaida group acknowledged for the first time that U.S. commandos killed one of its senior leaders but vowed to fight on in a statement posted on an Islamic Web site Wednesday.The man was killed along with other fighters in a daring daylight raid by U.S. special forces in southern Somalia on Monday.

The group, the Al-Shabab Mujahideen Movement, confirmed the death of ‘sheik commander’ Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan along with an unspecified number of other militants. U.S. officials have said a total of six people were killed in the strike.American authorities have described the 30-year-old Kenyan as one of the most wanted al-Qaida operatives in the region. He was wanted for involvement in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 250 people, as well as the attempted downing of an Israeli airliner and a car bombing at a beach resort in Kenya in 2002.

Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the hotel blast.Several past attempts to kill him failed, including one in March 2008 in which the U.S. Navy fired two Tomahawk missiles from a submarine into a southern Somali town.U.S. officials on Tuesday described a long wait for the right opportunity to try again.

Monday’s raid involved elite Navy SEALs in Army assault helicopters launched from U.S. warships off the Somali coast.The group’s statement said six U.S. helicopters took part in the attack on Nabhan and his comrades, who were traveling in a car. Two of the helicopters landed and troops exchanged fire with the fighters, all of whom were killed, before ‘the enemy hurried to the site, collecting the bodies of the brothers,’ according to the statement.

The authenticity of the statement could not be verified, but it was posted on an Islamic Web site that regularly carries statements from al-Qaida and other militant groups.The insurgent group said the loss of its leader will not affect its determination to continue fighting and vowed to avenge his death.U.S. officials have become increasingly concerned that al-Qaida insurgents are moving out of safe havens along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and into Somalia’s anarchic expanses, exploiting the lack of an effective central government to train and mobilize recruits without interference."

(Via Air Force Times - News.)

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