Wed, Sep 16, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Regional al-Qaeda leader reported killed in Somalia

SPECIAL FORCES ASSAULT Islamist militants have vowed revenge over a US helicopter attack that killed a man wanted by the FBI for attacks in Kenya in 2002


Somalia’s extremist Islamist militia vowed yesterday to avenge the killing in a US military operation of one of al-Qaeda’s top regional leaders, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan.

“Muslims will retaliate against this unprovoked attack,” a top leader of the Shebab, an extremist movement with suspected links to al-Qaeda, said on condition of anonymity.

“The United States is Islam’s known enemy and we will never expect mercy from them, nor should they expect mercy from us,” he said.

US officials and witnesses said Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan citizen wanted by the FBI as a mastermind of the deadly 2002 anti-Israeli attacks in Mombasa, was killed when US Special Forces in helicopters attacked a car in southern Somalia on Monday.

Nabhan, 28, was suspected of building the truck bomb that killed 15 people at a Kenyan hotel in 2002, as well as involvement in a simultaneous, but botched, missile launch at an Israeli airliner leaving Mombasa airport.

A senior Somali government source said the fugitive was in a car with other foreign insurgents from the al Shabaab rebel group when they were hit near Roobow village in Barawe District, some 250km south of Mogadishu.

Washington says al Shabaab is al-Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia.

“Nabhan and four other top foreign commanders ... were killed in the raid,” the government source said.

“These young fighters do not have the same skills as their colleagues in Afghanistan or elsewhere when it comes to foreign air strikes,” the government source said. “They are in confusion now. I hope the world takes action.”

US sources familiar with the operation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the US believed Nabhan had been killed and his body had been taken into US custody.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment “on any alleged operation in Somalia”.

Western security agencies say Somalia has become a safe haven for militants, including foreign jihadists, who use it to plot attacks in the region and beyond.

Nabhan, who has long been on the FBI’s Most Wanted list, is believed to have fled to Somalia after the 2002 bombing of the Israeli-owned beach hotel.

The US says another leading al-Qaeda suspect who may be in Somalia, Sudanese explosives expert Abu Talha al-Sudani, is believed to have orchestrated those two attacks.

The US military has launched air strikes inside Somalia in the past against people Washington blames for the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1988.

In May last year, US warplanes killed the then-leader of al Shabaab and al-Qaeda’s top man in the country, Afghan-trained Aden Hashi Ayro, in an attack on the central town of Dusamareb.

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