[...] The Seals swept ashore, but not everyone in Barawe was asleep in those chilly early morning hours. Abdurahman Yarow, a longtime resident of the town, recalled: “I was wrapping my turban on my neck and head to protect against the cold and heading to the mosque. When I had nearly entered it, I heard a sound behind me. I saw what looked like three big cows going towards the north of the mosque – it was dark so I could not identify well what they were.
“After only 10 minutes I heard the first guns – that is, when the gun battle occurred between al-Shabaab fighters in the house and the US forces. I now understand the big cows I saw in the night were the American special forces with their military bags on their backs going in the direction of the house they targeted.”
The Seals took up positions inside the house’s compound, according to a report by NBC, which continued: “Then a lone al-Shabaab fighter walked out into plain view, smoked a cigarette, and went back inside, one source familiar with the details of the raid said. The fighter played it cool, and gave no indication that he had spotted the Seals. But he came back out shooting, firing rounds from an AK-47 assault rifle.”
The element of surprise had been lost and al-Shabaab’s fighters unleashed gunfire and grenades in a cacophony that rang out across the town, murdering sleep before dawn prayers. But the Americans continued on the offensive, according to an elder who did not wish to be named. “The attackers from the US divided into two groups,” he said. “Group one, comprising six men, stormed the house and began shooting the people inside it, while group two, also of at least six men, were staying outside the house. The worst shooting took place inside where one al-Shabaab fighter was killed. Al-Shabaab had more fighters inside and they fought extremely hard against the Americans.”
The elder continued: “The Americans tried to enter room by room into the house to start searching for the big fish but al-Shabaab got reinforcing fighters from other houses and then the situation deteriorated until the Americans retreated.”
According to the NBC account, several Seals could see Abdulkadir through windows but he was heavily protected; according to al-Shabaab, he was not in the building. While Pentagon officials have been reluctant to provide a full narrative, they have said US forces retreated from the gun battle out of a concern for potential civilian casualties. Details leaked to the press suggest that the compound contained far more women and children than the Seals expected.
The commandos returned to their boat, grateful for having suffered no casualties, and finally there was calm. Sheikh recalled: “At 3am the call for prayer started, and all the gunfire stopped. A neighbour called me on the phone and said there is an attack against the mujahideen. When it became safe enough to see everything outside, I came out to look around. Outside the house which came under attack there were some fighters of al-Shabaab and some residents come to witness the incident.
- No, al Shabab Is Not a Threat (Antiwar)
- ‘Imperfect Intelligence’ Said to Hinder U.S. Raid on Militant in Somalia (Guardian)
- Heeding new counterterror guidelines, U.S. forces backed off in Somalia raid (Washington Post)
- Target of SEAL raid planned attacks in Kenya (AP)
- Al-Shabab bolsters presence in Barawe (BBC)