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18:32 | Somali insurgents vow revenge for US killing of leader
Senior insurgents in Somalia vowed revenge today for a US raid that killed an al-Qaida commander high on the FBI's most wanted terrorist list.

Saleh Ali Nabhan, 28, a leader of al-Shabab, a group closely linked to al-Qaida, was killed yesterday by helicopter-borne US special forces. He was alleged to have been involved in the bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, which killed 229 people. He was also accused of involvement in attacks in 2002 on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, popular with Israelis, in which 15 people died, and a botched missile attack on a plane carrying tourists from Mombasa to Israel.

"They will taste the bitterness of our response," an al-Shabab commander told the Associated Press.

"Al-Shabab will continue targeting western countries, especially America … we are killing them and they are hunting us," a spokesman, Sheikh Bare Mohamed Farah Khoje, told Reuters.

A US official said two men travelling in a car in Somalia were killed when helicopters opened fire yesterday, and two others were wounded and captured. Another official said it was most likely that Nabhan, who had been on the FBI wanted list for several years, had been killed.

Witnesses on the ground said military helicopters strafed a car carrying Nabhan, killing some passengers and wounding others, south of Mogadishu. The helicopters landed and took the wounded men, and possibly Nabhan's body, with them, witnesses said.

Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a Somali militia that has been fighting al-Shabab and is allied with the UN-backed government of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, praised the US raid.

"We are very pleased with the helicopters that killed the foreign al-Shabab fighters," a spokesman, Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yussuf, told Reuters. "God sent birds against those who attacked the holy mosque, the Ka'ba, millennia ago. The same way, God has sent bombers against al-Shabab. We hope more aircraft will destroy the rest of al-Shabab, who have abused Islam and massacred Somalis."

The US had tried several times in the past to kill Nabhan, whom it accused of running training camps in Somalia for local and foreign fighters. A Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, declined to comment "on any alleged operation in Somalia", as did the White House.

Bill Clinton's administration drastically reduced its military involvement in Somalia after the Black Hawk Down fiasco in 1993, but George Bush resumed limited military operations, with an attack by one of its gunships on suspected al-Qaida members in 2007. The Obama administration, fearful of growing al-Qaida influence in the Horn of Africa, has indicated a willingness to provide more military and economic support for the government against insurgents such as al-Shabab.

On a visit to Africa last month, Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, met Ahmed, who controls only a small portion of the country, and promised him support in the fight against the group.

"Certainly if al-Shabab were to obtain a haven in Somalia which could then attract al-Qaida and other terrorists actors, it would be a threat to the United States," she said.

Yesterday's attack took place near Roobow village, in Barawe district, an area controlled by al-Shabab about 150 miles south of Mogadishu. A witness, Abdi Ahmed, told the Associated Press that six helicopters "buzzed" the village before two of them opened fire. The helicopters then landed and white foreign soldiers got out, he said.

A witness on the ground said they took only two wounded men, but a US official said they also took Nabhan's body. Muhammad Ali Aden, a bus driver who drove past the burnt-out car minutes later, said: "There was only a burning vehicle and two dead bodies lying beside it."

Some locals reported that the foreign troops had French flags on their uniforms, but the French defence ministry denied having a military presence in the area at the time. France has troops stationed in neighbouring Djibouti. In May last year, US aircraft killed the then leader of al-Shabab, Aden Hashi Ayro, in Duasmareb.
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