WASHINGTON — Helicopter-borne U.S. Special Forces attacked and killed a top Al Qaeda-linked suspect in southern Somalia early Monday, U.S. officials said.
Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a 30-year-old Kenyan sought in the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned resort in Kenya and an unsuccessful attempt that year to shoot down an Israeli airliner, was among four men killed in the attack, officials said.
U.S. troops fired from the air at a vehicle in which the men were traveling.
At least four helicopters participated in the raid, launched from a nearby U.S. naval vessel, a senior military official said.
At least one of the helicopters landed and troops retrieved the bodies.
"You want to go in there, do this fast, and get out before you're detected," the official said.
Officials said Nabhan was the target of the raid, which the Associated Press reported took place in a village near Baraawe.
The region is under the control of the Shabab militia, which is fighting to overthrow the U.S.-backed Somali government and install strict Islamic law.
A U.S. counter-terrorism official described Nabhan as a senior official in the Shabab who maintained close ties to the Pakistan-based Al Qaeda leadership and provided a link between the two groups.
In 2006, the FBI said Nabhan was wanted "for questioning in connection" with the resort bombing in Mombasa, Kenya.
U.S. counter-terrorism officials have also alleged he was involved in the 1998 Al Qaeda attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Nabhan is believed to have been in Somalia for a number of years, initially under the protection of an Islamic government that was ousted by the U.S.-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in late 2006.
Officials of that government, which called itself the Islamic Courts Union, fled the Somali capital of Mogadishu in advance of the Ethiopian forces, along with foreign backers said to have links to Al Qaeda.
Since then, they have been sought by U.S. intelligence officials and have been the target of several American attacks.
Monday's raid was first reported by ABC News.