By Rebecca Shabad - 10/07/13 04:18 PM EDT
The U.S. Navy's SEAL Team 6, which raided a Somali militant stronghold Saturday, had to abort their mission because they failed to capture an al-Shabaab leader alive, an unidentified senior U.S. official told CNN Monday.
The team was targeting the al Qaeda-linked group, based in Somalia, that took responsibility for the deadly September attack on an upscale shopping mall in Kenya.
Navy SEALs were charged with capturing Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, according to multiple reports. The man also goes by the name Ikrima.
"Their mission was to capture him. Once it became clear we were not going to able to take him, the Navy commander made the decision to withdraw," said the official, who CNN reported has direct knowledge of the entire Somalia operation but declined to be identified publicly.
An intense firefight forced the SEALs to withdraw from the operation. A drone was not used, the official said, because the SEALs were tasked with capturing the terrorist alive.
The raid was one of two the U.S. launched in Africa over the weekend to target terrorism suspects. U.S. forces in Libya successfully captured an alleged terrorist indicted for embassy bombings in the 1990s.
Initial reports of the raid in Somalia suggested British and Turkish special forces were also involved. Both governments, however, immediately denied participating in the attack.
Reuters had also reported that a Chechen national and senior al-Shabaab commander were wounded or killed in the firefight.
The Obama administration has stepped up its warnings for Americans abroad recently because of the mall attack in Nairobi, and intelligence indicating terrorist cells are still plotting attacks against U.S. citizens.