Somalia: Islamist Nabhan’s killing could fuel extremism…

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Islamist rebellion, al-shabab, has vowed to retaliate the killing of one of its leaders, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, in the US led operation in South Somali. An al-Shabab commander, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the insurgents would retaliate against US interests. A similar attack by the US in May 2008, killed an al-Shabab leader and at least 10 others led to protests by villagers and increased anti-America sentiments.

Some experts have since argued that attacks such as the US attack on al-Shabab vehicle on September 14, has little effect on the group’s capabilities, instead it stands to fuel extremism, instead of combating it. However US-based Somalia expert Andre le Sage claims that Nabhan’s death, if confirmed, would severely hamper al-Shabab’s network’s ability to operate in Somalia.

According to Frank Gardner, BBC analyst, this latest US raid into Somalia, carried out by Joint Special Operations Command, would have had several aims. Firstly, it would be about “settling scores” – killing or capturing a man the FBI believes was instrumental in al-Qaeda’s attacks in East Africa. A second aim would be to show al-Qaeda’s senior operatives that there is no safe hiding place, even in a country whose militants effectively drove out US forces 15 years ago. Thirdly, the raid’s planners would be hoping to throw both al-Qaeda and al-Shabab off-balance, disrupting their plans. Although Nabhan’s loss will be felt, reports of his death at US hands are almost certain to trigger revenge attacks in the region. “They will taste the bitterness of our response,” the unnamed al-Shabab commander told the BBC.

The US soldiers were reported to have taken two men away, and two bodies were left in the road after the attack in the southern coastal town of Barawe. Reuters news agency cited a US official as saying Special Forces had flown by helicopter from a US navy ship and fired on a vehicle that they believed was carrying Nabhan. While other news sources cited a US official as saying the operation was successful, and that “Nabhan was dead”.

There had been confusion over which country carried out the attacks as earlier reports claimed that US troops wore uniforms with French emblems on them, while they carried out the attack on truck-full of al-Shabab Islamists. But the troop identity became clear after a French military spokesman denied his country’s forces were involved. The US and France have troops stationed in neighboring Djibouti, and have carried out air strikes against Somali Islamist groups accused of links to al-Qaeda.

Nabhan, born in Kenya, according to The National Counter Terrorism Center in the US, is suspected of bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya and a failed attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. He is also linked to two attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in which more than 250 died, in 1998. However his death has not been officially confirmed by Washington. According to ABC News, an internal US government report describes Nabhan as a top al-Qaeda officer in east Africa, who ran training camps in Somalia for foreign fighters.

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