* Al Shabaab says fighter killed in strike
* Foreign forces land on beach under cover of darkness
* Somali officials say target was Chechen
* Shabaab say attack carried out by British, Turkish forces
By Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Oct 5 Somali al Shabaab militants
said on Saturday British and Turkish special forces had raided a
coastal town overnight, killing a rebel fighter, but that a
British officer had also been killed and others wounded.
A British Defence Ministry spokeswoman said: "We are not
aware of any British involvement in this at all." A Turkish
Foreign Ministry official denied any Turkish part in such an
A Somali intelligence official said the target of the raid
on Shabaab's stronghold in the small southern coastal town of
Barawe was a Chechen commander, who had been wounded and his
guard killed. A total of seven people were killed, said police.
It was not clear whether the assault was related to the
attack on a Kenyan mall two weeks ago, which the al Qaeda-linked
group said it carried out and which killed at least 67. Nor was
there any independent confirmation of what forces were involved.
Both U.S. and French forces have carried out similar raids
in the past. The French army denied involvement and the Pentagon
declined to comment.
Shabaab leader Ahmed Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu
al-Zubayr, has described the mall attack as retaliation for
Kenya's incursion in October 2011 into southern Somalia to crush
the insurgents. It has raised concern in the West over the
operations of Shabaab in the region.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for al Shabaab's
military operations, told Reuters foreign forces had landed on
the beach at Barawe, about 180 km (110 miles) south of
Mogadishu, and launched an assault at dawn that drew gunfire
from rebel fighters in one of the militia's coastal bases.
He later said the attack was carried out by Britain's SAS
unit and Turkish special forces, and that the British commander
was killed during the raid and four other SAS soldiers were
critically wounded. A Turkish soldier was also wounded, he
Western navies patrol the sea off Somalia, mired in conflict
for more than two decades, and have in the past launched strikes
on land from warships. Neither Turkish nor British forces have
any past record of raids in the area.
Barawe is fully controlled by the Islamist militia with
almost no government presence.
Somali security officials gave conflicting accounts.
"We understand that French troops injured Abu Diyad also
known as Abu Ciyad, an al Shabaab leader from Chechnya. They
killed his main guard who was also a foreigner. The main target
was the Shabaab leader from Chechnya," an intelligence officer
based in Mogadishu, who gave his name as Mohamed, told Reuters.
A second Somali intelligence officer said the Barawe attack
had been carried out by foreign forces. He confirmed the target
was a foreign national, and said another foreigner was wounded.
Col. Abdikadir Mohamed, a senior police officer in
Mogadishu, said that despite the statements by al Shabaab on the
identities of the foreign forces, he still believed the
attacking troops were American and their target was a senior
foreign al Shabaab official.
"At least seven people died in the Barawe port town attack -
five militants plus two of the attackers," Mohamed told Reuters.
In 2009, helicopter-borne U.S. special forces killed senior
al Qaeda militant Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan in a raid in southern
Somalia. Nabhan was suspected of building the bomb that killed
15 people at an Israeli-owned hotel on the Kenyan coast in 2002.
NATO denied involvement in the Barawe attack, as did EU
Navfor, Europe's counterpiracy mission off the Somalian coast.
"Westerners in boats attacked our base at Barawe beach and
one was martyred from our side," Musab said.
"No planes or helicopters took part in the fight. The
attackers left weapons, medicine and stains of blood, we chased
them," he added.
"Although we both exchanged grenades, the attackers had
silencer guns, so the weapons heard were ours."
Residents said fighting erupted at about 3 a.m. (midnight
"We were awoken by heavy gunfire last night, we thought an
al Shabaab base at the beach was captured," Sumira Nur, a mother
of four, told Reuters from Barawe on Saturday.
"We also heard sounds of shells but we do not know where
they landed. We don't have any other information."
The United States has used drones to kill fighters in
Somalia in the past. In January 2012, members of the elite U.S.
Navy SEALs rescued two aid workers after they killed their nine
In January this year the French military used helicopters to
attack an al Shabaab base in a southern village to rescue a
French hostage. Two French commandos were killed and the
insurgents later claimed they had killed the hostage.
Al Shabaab were driven out of Mogadishu in late 2011 and are
struggling to hold on to territory elsewhere in the face of
attacks by Kenyan, Ethiopian and African Union forces trying to
prevent Islamist militancy spreading from Somalia.
Al Shabaab wants to impose its strict version of sharia, or
Islamic law, across the Horn of Africa state.
The Kenyan mall raid, in which attackers stormed in spraying
people with bullets and throwing grenades, confirmed fears in
the region and the West that Somalia remains a training ground
for militant Islam.
A Kenyan military spokesman on Saturday named four of the
attackers, saying they also included a Sudanese, Kenyan Arab and
a Somali, trained by al Shabaab and al Qaeda.