Inside SEALs aborted Somalia mission: What U.S. could learn from al-Shabab leader

(CBS News) A clearer picture of a daring Navy SEAL raid last weekend in Somalia is emerging. The SEALs target was a leader of the terror group al-Shabab who goes by the name Ikrimah.

Ikrimah -- has been around for a while, according to CBS News senior correspondent John Miller, a former FBI assistant director. Miller said on "CTM," Although he hasn't been high-profile like some other al-Shabab or al Qaeda leaders...he goes back to the East Africa bombings in 1998 through his association with with Harun Fazul, who is the individual who was basically the bridge between al Qaeda and al-Shabab in Somalia."

As the mission progressed, the SEALs came out of the Indian Ocean in small boats before dawn, but they were spotted as they moved toward a seaside compound. A firefight broke out.

With the element of surprise gone, the SEALs lost their chance to take him alive. The SEAL commander decided not to call in air strikes because of women and children in the compound. Instead, he ordered his men to withdraw to a Navy ship offshore.

The aborted raid comes just two weeks after al-Shabab launched an attack on a mall in Kenya.

Miller added the al-Shabab target is also connected to the plot against the Paradise Hotel in 1998 in which the Israeli tourist spot was targeted, along with a plot to attempt to shoot down an Israeli charter jet in 2002.

"So you're seeing somebody who been behind the scenes of a lot of serious plots," Miller said. "And this is somebody that the U.S. wanted to neutralize because there are new plots afoot targeting places in Kenya -- we saw the mall attack, there were plots against the U.N. headquarters and other targets."

Though the U.S. will likely not hit the same location in the same way, Miller said he "wouldn't be selling Ikrimah any life insurance policies anytime soon. (The SEALs have) exposed those tactics, those techniques and procedures. But they certainly have an array of options. Drone strikes is one. Air strikes are another. It just depends where he's on the move, where he can find a clear target on him. That won't be today and that won't be tomorrow, but he's going to be looking over his shoulder for a while."

The man who calls himself Ikrimah may have a lot of intelligence about the relationship between al-Shabab and al Qaeda, as well as the flow of money, and planned and past attacks. "It would be worth capturing him alive," Miller said. "But I'm also fairly sure that part of the reason they were going in with people, instead of air cover was the idea that they understood there would be other people who could be collateral damage. When you do it face-to-face, you have more of an opportunity of a targeted strike towards your actual intended target."

Going forward, Miller said the U.S. will look to continue their search: "You know, there's that old saying coined by Muhammad Ali:'You can run, but you cannot hide. These people, you know, in Somalia, may operate out in the open, or they may go into hiding. But if you look at the Osama Bin Laden case, if they look for you long enough, they will find you."

For more on Navy SEAL raid, watch John Miller's full report above.

  • Amanda Cochran

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