U.S. Navy SEALs have carried out an amphibious raid on a Somali town but failed to capture or kill a senior commander of al-Shabaab movement, which is behind the recent deadly attack on a shopping mall in Kenya.
U.S. officials cited by CNN and the New York Times named the target militant commander as Ikrima, but other reports identified the target as Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr.
Although Ikrima is not suspected behind the Nairobi Westgate shopping mall, he is suspected to have played a role in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings and the Mombasa attacks of 2002.
The target was reportedly staying at a seaside villa in the town of Baraawe, south of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The U.S. Special Forces faced unexpected heavy return fire from al-Shabab militants during the operation, forcing them to pull back to avoid civilian casualties, according to U.S. media reports.
Al-Shabab movement later boasted that it has successfully repelled the U.S. raid and it has reportedly released pictures of what it said was American equipment left behind.
“The mujahidin repulsed their attack and in Allah's wishes they have and we chased them until they reached the coast. We have killed one white officer and wounded at least two others,” an al-Shabaab spokesperson said, according to All Africa.com.
Baraawe is believed to be a major gathering town for al-Shabaab militants, which had declared allegiance to al-Qaeda, and fights to establish an Islamist state in Somalia.
U.S. Special Forces have also recently carried out an operation in Libya and arrested U. Libyan al-Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi, following a military raid in the streets of Tripoli.