"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Friday, October 11, 2013

How the US raid on al-Shabaab in Somalia went wrong

Members of al-Shabaab

Navy seals launched a daring night-time raid in Barawe, but were forced to retreat an hour later without their target – why?

Based on interviews with witnesses and members of al-Shabaab, as well as official statements and media reports, The UK Guardian presents the most comprehensive picture yet of the daring pre-dawn raid – and where it went wrong.  Here are some highlights.

The Americans' target was an innocuous two-storey beachside house in Barawe, a fishing town of about 200,000 people that was a crucial slave trade port in the colonial era. In particular, they had planned the delicate operation of capturing, not killing, Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, a Kenyan of Somali origin and senior commander of al-Shabaab who was linked to a number of terrorist plots.

The house, about 200 metres from the sea on the town's east side, is understood to be used by foreign extremists who have gone to Somalia to take up al-Shabaab's cause. The group's presence there was not news to Sheikh.

"I live in a house near the beach and I used to see the house every day. There were so many al-Shabaab fighters entering and coming out," she said. "I usually see them going back and forth but I had never thought that so important a person was living inside the house."

Early morning gunfire was unusual, Sheikh continued, except when al-Shabaab was conducting training exercises. "I raised my ears and I continued to hear the gunfire growing. I had no feeling or thought of such an attack from the Americans. I looked at my watch about 30 minutes later and heard one explosion and then, a few minutes later, another explosion occurred, like boom!"

What had been invisible to Sheikh and other residents of Barawe was the stealthy advance of navy Seal team six – the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan – in a speedboat towards the Somalian coastline before first light. The team consisted of about 20 Seals, according to leaked accounts, and their craft was flanked on the Indian Ocean by three small boats to provide back-up.

"After only 10 minutes I heard the first guns – that is, when the gun battle occurred between al-Shabaab fighters in the house and the US forces. I now understand the big cows I saw in the night were the American special forces with their military bags on their backs going in the direction of the house they targeted."

The Seals took up positions inside the house's compound, according to a report by NBC, which continued: "Then a lone al-Shabaab fighter walked out into plain view, smoked a cigarette, and went back inside, one source familiar with the details of the raid said. The fighter played it cool, and gave no indication that he had spotted the Seals. But he came back out shooting, firing rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle."

The element of surprise had been lost and al-Shabaab's fighters unleashed gunfire and grenades in a cacophony that rang out across the town, murdering sleep before dawn prayers. But the Americans continued on the offensive, according to an elder who did not wish to be named. "The attackers from the US divided into two groups," he said. "Group one, comprising six men, stormed the house and began shooting the people inside it, while group two, also of at least six men, were staying outside the house. The worst shooting took place inside where one al-Shabaab fighter was killed. Al-Shabaab had more fighters inside and they fought extremely hard against the Americans."

The elder continued: "The Americans tried to enter room by room into the house to start searching for the big fish but al-Shabaab got reinforcing fighters from other houses and then the situation deteriorated until the Americans retreated."

Somali al-Shabaab soldiers.
According to the NBC account, several Seals could see Abdulkadir through windows but he was heavily protected; according to al-Shabaab, he was not in the building.

The commandos returned to their boat, grateful for having suffered no casualties, and finally there was calm. Sheikh recalled: "At 3am the call for prayer started, and all the gunfire stopped. A neighbour called me on the phone and said there is an attack against the mujahideen. When it became safe enough to see everything outside, I came out to look around. Outside the house which came under attack there were some fighters of al-Shabaab and some residents come to witness the incident.

"These al-Shabaab fighters were not talking to the people. Some of them were masked and you could not see their faces. I saw one dead man and he was loaded into a car for burial. They were saying 'the martyr', which is the only word that you can understand for an al-Shabaab member who's been killed."

The dead man was Abdulkadir's bodyguard, according to one source in the town

Sheikh continued: "There were more fighters and supporters of al-Shabaab coming to the house in the morning; they were vowing that they will kill anyone who is found working with the non-believers.

"On the beach, the residents were looking at items left by US forces. I saw a grey military bullet-proof jacket. There was also blood scattered on the ground. There were military boots on the ground which we suspect were those of the Americans."

In the aftermath of the US assault, al-Shabaab deployed more heavily armed fighters to patrol the streets of Barawe, while also posting men and anti-aircraft weapons on the beach. There was also a local backlash with a hunt for suspected informants who helped US intelligence locate the house. A man who frequently used the local internet café was arrested on Sunday and is still being held.

For the full story see The UK Guardian.

Fighting Al-Shabab
Moe Abdullahi Mohamed spent six months with the Somali militant group Al-Shabab.

Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia. The raid in Barawe aimed to capture Abdulkadir
Mohamed Abdulkadir, a senior commander.
Photograph: Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

Child Warriors
Members of al-Shabaab.  Somalia is basically in the Middle Ages.  With no meaningful economy, the young men attach themselves to a local warlords who provide food, shelter and money in return for military service and loyalty.

Yes, I want one of these!!!!!
Members of al-Shabaab.

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