Elite commandos storm lawless Somali war zone to snatch tribal leader

Friday, October 28, 2011

British commandos made a dramatic amphibious landing on Somalia’s war-torn shores to seize a tribal leader, the Daily Mail can reveal.

In an extraordinary operation in a lawless area teeming with bandits and pirates, elite Royal Marines launched Viking armoured vehicles from landing craft and pushed several miles inland to pick up the clan chief.

The unprecedented covert landing comes at a sensitive time in the troubled East African country as Al Qaeda-linked groups are training terror recruits and pirates are holding more than 100 hostages after seizing their boats.

The tribal elder, one of the most influential figures in the region, was whisked through bandit country by heavily armed troops from 539 Assault Squadron and taken to a ‘very important meeting’ with MI6 and the Foreign Office aboard a Royal Navy support ship anchored off the coast.

The discussions are understood to have included the location of terror training camps and the seizing of hostages by clansmen operating in the Indian Ocean off Somalia.

The operation raises the prospect of further raids against terror camps and pirate bases.

Special Forces have increasingly focused on Somalia and the Horn of Africa in recent months amid a rise in the number of ships seized by pirates for ransom, the kidnap of Western citizens and the mounting threat of the Al Qaeda-linked Islamist group Al-Shabaab.

There are also fears that Somalia has replaced Pakistan and Afghanistan as the main area of training for UK-born terrorists.

The U.S. has carried out a series of unmanned drone attacks on terror training camps, but until now there has been no confirmation of British forces operating in Somalia.

It is known that British Special Forces in the region have been involved in gathering intelligence on pirates and on Al-Shabaab, which is suspected of being behind the kidnap of Briton Judith Tebbutt, 56, from a Kenyan island resort last month.

Mrs Tebbutt’s husband, David, 58, was shot dead during the kidnap, which happened after bandits landed by boat at the resort near Somalia’s border with Kenya.

Mrs Tebbutt’s whereabouts are currently not known.

The Marines’ raid in July was the first time British troops have conducted a military operation in the troubled territory in 40 years. The swoop was part of Exercise Somaliland Cougar, a mission to train coastguards in Somaliland – a former British protectorate that broke away from failed Somalia – in anti-piracy techniques and meet MPs and tribal leaders.

The Marines, serving on the 60-man Royal Fleet Auxiliary ship Cardigan Bay, had come under fire as they sailed near the autonomous Somali region of Puntland, which is in dispute with Somaliland.

But despite the danger, a small unit from 539 Assault Squadron was sent in to pick up the tribal elder for the talks.

Under cover of darkness, they set out from RFA Cardigan Bay, a landing ship dock that allows smaller boats to send troops and equipment to shore.

The landing craft carried two armoured Viking troop-carrying vehicles protected by machine guns and smoke grenades.

The Vikings successfully left the landing craft and headed for their rendezvous with the tribal leader. Each carried up to 12 commandos.

Source: Mail Online


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