Top militant Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan 'killed' in helicopter raid on Somali village

A prominent terrorist sought in connection with the 1998 US Embassy bombings in East Africa was reported to be among the dead yesterday after helicopter gunships attacked a village in southern Somalia, killing at least two Islamist militants.

Residents and Somali Government sources said that Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a militant with links to al-Qaeda, died in the raid.

Witnesses said that up to four helicopters swooped on a convoy of vehicles before opening fire. The attack took place close to the coastal town of Barawe, about 150 miles south of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and deep inside territory controlled by al-Shabaab, an Islamist insurgent group.

After destroying one vehicle, white-skinned commandos — described as French or American — were seen getting out of the helicopters and seizing at least two survivors.Abdinasir Mohamed Adan, a local elder, said: “There was a military operation carried out by four foreign choppers in Erile village. A car was destroyed. We are also hearing that some of the vehicle’s passengers were taken on the choppers.”

Mohamed Ali Aden, a bus driver who passed the burnt-out car, said: “There was only a burning vehicle and two dead bodies lying beside it.”

Nabhan and other foreign fighters, many of whom have joined Somalia’s Islamist insurgents in recent months, were reported to have been in the car.

In Mogadishu, a Government source said: “Nabhan and four other foreign commanders of militant groups were killed.”

Intelligence and other sources in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, told The Times that Nabhan may have been killed, but warned that other militants had been presumed dead in the past, only to resurface later.

“What I’m hearing is that an al-Shabaab convoy of one Land Cruiser, with important foreigners, supported by technicals [improvised battle wagons] was attacked,” said an intelligence source who had spoken with al-Shabaab leaders on the ground. He said that the Land Cruiser was destroyed and that Nabhan was thought to be among the passengers. Western diplomats were unwilling to comment before his body had been identified but, if true, his killing will be welcomed in Washington.

Nabhan is seen as one of the most high profile al-Qaeda linked terrorists operating in Somalia. In March 2008, the US Navy fired Tomahawk missiles at a village in southern Somalia where he was believed to be. This followed similar strikes in 2007.

The Kenyan-born 30-year-old is wanted by the FBI. Three Israelis and ten Kenyans died when three suicide bombers blew themselves up at Mombasa’s Paradise Hotel in 2002, after terrorists missed hitting a Tel Aviv-bound plane with surface-to-air missiles nearby. Nabhan is thought to have masterminded both attacks.

Nabhan is also wanted by Kenya for his role in the August 1998 bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed more than 200.


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