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Somali militants say 'foreign forces' attack key base

Somali al-Shabab insurgents say foreign military forces have carried out a strike on one of their coastal bases. The New York Times has reported that US Navy SEALS were behind the raid.

The insurgents said "Western" forces attacked a house in one of their bases in the coastal town of Barawe under the cover of dark before morning prayers on Saturday.

"The enemy of Allah tried to surprise the mujahideen commanders with a night attack using a military helicopter, but they were taught a lesson and they have failed," Mohamed Abu Suleiman, the Shabab commander of the town, told AFP news agency.

"Our mujahideen fighters inside the house fought back and the cowards ran away," Suleiman added.

Another al-Shabab commander however said the attack came only from the sea, and that one al-Shabab militant had been killed.

A Somali intelligence official said the targets of the raid were "high-profile" foreigners in the house, and confirmed that the attack was carried out by a foreign military.

Foreign military activities

Several nations operate special forces in the Horn of Africa region, and have carried out similar missions in the past.

In January, elite French forces staged an overnight operation with some 50 troops and at least five helicopters in southern Somalia, attempting unsuccessfully to rescue an intelligence officer captured by al-Shabab forces.

Four years ago, US Navy SEALS killed a most-wanted al-Qaeda operative, also in Barawe.

Saturday's incident comes two weeks after al-Shabab gunmen attacked Kenya's Westgate shopping mall in the capital, Nairobi, killing 67 people in a four-day siege.

The leader of al-Shabab, Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr, also known as Ahmed Godane, says the attack was in retaliation for Kenya's military deployment inside Somalia.

The Kenyan military on Saturday identified four men alleged to have been involved in the shopping mall attack. They were named as Abu Baara al-Sudani, Omar Nabhan, Khattab al-Kene and "Umayr."

Kenyan police also announced that they believed that only four to six people carried out the raid. Previously the number had been put at between 10 and 15.

tj/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)