In daring Abbottabad-type raid that killed Osama bin Laden, US Special Forces struck al-Qaeda hideouts in two far-flung African countries, capturing a top al-Qaeda leader from the streets of Libyan capital Tripoli and targeting a seaside villa of an al-Shabaab leader in Somalia.
During a raid in Tripoli, the US Army's Delta Force yesterday captured al-Qaeda leader Nazih Abdul-Hamed al-Ruqai, known by his alias Anas al-Libi, carrying a bounty of USD 5 million on his head for the 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed over 220 people.
"The successful capture operation was made possible by superb work and coordination across our national security agencies and the intelligence community, and was approved by President (Barack) Obama," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said.
Describing 49-year-old Libi as a bigger prize catch, Little said he was alive and in US custody. "As the result of a US counter-terrorism operation, Abu Anas al-Libi is currently lawfully detained by the US military in a secure location outside of Libya," he said, signalling America's determination to pursue dreaded terrorists abroad.
However, the raid on the Somali town of Barawe by members of SEAL Team Six, the same unit that killed bin Laden in his Pakistan hideout in 2011, failed to achieve its goal.
In another pre-dawn strike, SEAL commandos swam ashore near Barawe to capture a high-value al-Qaeda linked al-Shabaab leader believed to be involved in the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya that killed nearly 70 people, including Indians.
The US forces faced stiff resistance from al-Shabaad militants and were forced to retreat after a 15-20 minute gunfight, the New York Times said quoting a top US official.
Although the Shabaab leader was believed to have been killed during the assault, the SEALs could not confirm it.
Al-Shabaab had claimed responsibility for the Kenya massacre last month.
"I can confirm that yesterday, October 4, US military personnel were involved in a counter-terrorism operation against a known al-Shabaab terrorist. We are not prepared to provide additional detail at this time," Little said.
A US official said no US personnel were injured or killed in the attack.