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Target Of U.S. Raid In Somalia Called A Top Attack Planner

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A Kenyan intelligence official of Somali origin says that the "high-value terrorist leader" whose residence was targeted in a Navy SEAL raid Saturday was the senior al-Shabab leader Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, alias Ikrima.

Ikrima is a Kenyan of Somali descent who boasts connections to both al-Shabab in Somalia and to a Kenyan jihadist group called al-Hijra. Kenyan authorities announced on Friday that two of the four terrorists killed in the Westgate Mall attack were al-Hijra militants.

A U.S. government official later confirmed that Ikrima was in fact the target, says NPR national desk correspondent Tom Bowman.

Matt Bryden, director of Nairobi-based think tank Sahan Research, says that the Nairobi mall attack two weeks ago demonstrated a "dangerous convergence of al-Shabab, al-Hijra and the old al-Qaida East Africa networks," which may lay a foundation for future cooperative attacks in East Africa.

Bryden, former coordinator of the United Nation's Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, said Ikrima is "one of those rare figures" with links to all three jihadist networks, and as such, is a prime target for assassination or capture.

A leaked Kenyan intelligence report confirms that Ikrima was plotting "multiple attacks" inside Kenya, "sanctioned by al-Qaida" in Pakistan, and "involving financial and logistical support from South African operatives." The report continues:

"By December 2011, the planners had acquired safe houses in Nairobi & Mombasa, trained the executors, received explosives from Somalia and commenced assembly of and concealment of explosives."

According to the report, Ikrima's small "terror cell" included two British nationals: an explosives expert named Jermaine John Grant and the infamous White Widow, Samantha Lewthwaite. (Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta had confirmed that a "British woman" may have been among the fighters in Westgate Mall.)

Bryden said that although there is no evidence linking Ikrima to the Westgate Mall attack, his "central position" between multiple jihadist networks makes it "quite possible he played a leadership role."

Pentagon officials said that the Navy SEAL raid was planned one week after the mall attack.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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