- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — One of Africa’s most wanted al-Qaeda suspects has been killed in a U.S. raid in southern Somalia, the deputy mayor for security affairs in Somalia’s capital said Tuesday.

Citing intelligence reports, Abdi Fitah Shawey confirmed that Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was killed in Monday’s attack in an insurgent-held town near Barawe, some 155 miles (250 kilometers) south of Mogadishu. U.S. military officials say American forces were involved in the raid.

“Our security intelligence reports confirm that Nabhan was killed,” Shawey told the Associated Press. He did not elaborate on the intelligence reports.

Nabhan is a Kenyan wanted for questioning in connection with the car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel. The missiles missed the airliner.

Two U.S. military officials said forces from the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command were involved. The officials gave no details about the raid or its target, and they spoke on condition of anonymity because the operation was secret.

Somali witnesses to Monday’s raid say six helicopters buzzed the village before two of the aircraft opened fire on a vehicle. Witness Abdi Ahmed said soldiers in military fatigues then got out of the aircraft and left with the wounded men.

The commando-style action took place amid growing fears that al-Qaeda is gaining a foothold in this lawless nation.

Many experts fear Somalia is becoming a haven for al-Qaeda, a place for terrorists to train and gather strength — much like Afghanistan in the 1990s. The U.N.-backed government, with support from African Union peacekeepers, holds only a few blocks of Mogadishu, the war-ravaged capital.

Last year, U.S. missiles killed reputed al-Qaida commander Aden Hashi Ayro — marking the first major success after a string of U.S. military attacks in 2008.

Like much of Somalia, Barawe and its surrounding villages are controlled by the militant group al-Shabab, which the U.S. accuses of having ties to al-Qaeda. Al-Shabab, which has foreign fighters in its ranks, seeks to overthrow the government and impose a strict form of Islam in Somalia.

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