A senior leader of a militant group that claimed responsibility for the deadly attack on a shopping mall in Kenya two weeks ago was believed to have been killed on Saturday in a predawn gunfight with Navy SEALs, U.S. officials said.
The senior leader thought dead in the raid in the coastal town of Barrawe was a member of the al-Shabab militant group, officials told the Times. Navy SEALS were forced to withdraw from the site before his death could be confirmed.
"The Baraawe raid was planned a week and a half ago," a senior American security official told The New York Times
"It was prompted by the Westgate attack."
Al-Shabab militants attacked the upscale Westgate Shopping Mall
in Nairobi on Sept. 23. At least 68 people died in the raid. Al-Shabab group had demanded that Kenya pull troops back from neighboring Somalia.
Saturday's gunfight lasted more than an hour, witnesses told the Times, and helicopters were called in for additional support.
South of the Somali capital of Mogadishu, Baraawe is a small port town that is considered a meeting place for al-Shabab’s foreign fighters, according to the Times. Some reports said the target of the raid hailed from the Russian republic of Chechnya.
"The attack was carried out by the American forces and the Somali government was pre-informed about the attack," a senior official of Somali's government told the Times.
An al-Shabab spokesman told the Times that one of its fighters had been killed in an exchange of gunfire but that the group had beaten back the assault.
Shabab said that British and Turkish special forces had raided the coastal town overnight, killing a rebel fighter. The group said the commander of the British forces had also been killed and others wounded.
But both British and Turkish officials denied any involvement.
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