US Navy SEALs staged a raid Saturday on a senior Shebab militant leader in southern Somalia though it was unclear whether he was killed, The New York Times reported Saturday.The Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab had earlier claimed it was British and Turkish special forces that staged a nighttime sea and air attack on one of its bases, but Britain denied any involvement.
Leaders of the Islamist insurgents in the southern Somali port of Barawe said commandos rappelled from a helicopter and tried to storm a house belonging to a senior Shebab commander, but the assault failed.
According to the Times, the SEAL team approached and fired on the unidentified target's seaside villa by sea.
If confirmed, the pre-planned operation would mark the most significant US assault in Somalia since commandos killed key Al-Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in the same area four years ago.
Although the Shebab leader was believed to have been killed during the assault, the SEALs had to withdraw before they could confirm the kill, a senior US official said.
"The Baraawe raid was planned a week and a half ago," a US security official told the Times.
"It was prompted by the Westgate attack," he added, referring to an attack by Shebab gunmen on a Nairobi shopping mall that left 67 people dead during a four-day siege.
A senior Somali government official told the newspaper that "the attack was carried out by the American forces and the Somali government was pre-informed about the attack."
Shebab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP that commandos had stormed the beach by boat, but laid blamed on Britain and Turkey.
"The bungled operation was carried out by white people, who came with two small boats from a larger ship out at sea... one Shebab guard was killed, but reinforcements soon came and the foreigners fled," he told AFP.
"Where the foreigners had been, afterwards we saw lots of blood, so maybe we wounded some."