Tag Archives: Somali

‘Suitcases full of cash’: the story behind the story

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Photo from 2012 protest

With the Somali economy in shambles because of civil war, many people living there depend on assistance from family members in the United States to pay for food, medicine, and other basic necessities. Somalia has little banking infrastructure. Years ago, the U.S. government forbade U.S. banks from sending money to informal banking systems in Somalia. That left Somali-Americans with no way to send money to relatives desperate for help—except by sending cash.

Last week, Fox News strung together anonymous sources and rumors to libel the Somali community in Minnesota. Minnesota Public Radio reported that one named sources, who also testified at a quickly-called legislative hearing, has a serious past history of making false and defamatory statements. He has been sued for his false statements in the past, and has apologized in writing, acknowledging the falsehoods. Continue reading

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Mogadishu, Minnesota?

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Riverside towers on West Bank, home to many of Somali Minnesotans, and the planned setting of K’Naan’s HBO television series. 

A planned television series set in Minnesota’s Somali community sparked protests at Saturday’s West Bank block party on September 10. Angry and tired of being characterized as jihadi recruits or recruiters, Minnesota Somali youth protested Somali Canadian rapper K’naan’s television plans when he came to perform. I wasn’t there, so I can’t say who threw what first – but police sprayed some of the crowd with chemical irritants, and arrested a couple of people, including a Muslim woman who is a leader of the Black Liberation Project.

The HBO television series started out as “The Recruiters,” focusing on the Somali community in Minnesota, with the promise that it “will draw open an iron curtain behind which viewers will see the highly impenetrable world of Jihadi recruitment.” That sure plays into stereotypes about Somali youth in Minnesota. Now, the series has been renamed “Mogadishu, Minnesota,” and K’Naan claims that it will “present the true and beautiful side” of Somali immigrants. The protesters weren’t buying the new description. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Let them eat cake – cutting food stamps / Minnesota Somalis in the news

People can’t afford to eat, so Congress is set to vote Tuesday to balance the budget by cutting food stamps. They plan to cut an average of $15 from the average $124 per person food stamp benefit that 40.8 million Americans use to buy bread and milk.  (Food stamps are now called SNAP – Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.) Continue reading

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Somalia bombing attacks graduation

Somalia A suicide bomber disguised in women’s clothing attacked the graduation ceremony for medical students in Somalia, killing at least 19 people, including four government ministers. BBC reports:

The students had been graduating from Benadir University, which was set up in 2002 to train doctors to replace those who had fled overseas or been killed in the civil war.

Students, families and government officials had gathered at the Shamo Hotel to celebrate the medical school graduation, the second in the country in more than two decades, according to AP.

The attack targeted one of Somalia’s most important efforts to extricate itself from anarchy and violence, explaining the presence of so many top government officials. The graduating medical students were only the second class to receive diplomas from the medical school. [The first class was last year.]

“The loss of our ministers is disastrous, but it is an outrage to target the graduation of medical students and kill those whose only aim in life was to help those most in need in our stricken country,” Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke said.

Militant groups control most of the country and most of the capital of Mogadishu, while the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) struggles to survive. While anti-government militants belong to more than one group, the al-Shabab mlitia is the dominant militia and is believedto be linked to al-Qaida.

Pakistan Suicide bombers struck a mosque in Pakistan Friday, killing at least 35 people, reports NPR. They sprayed the crowd at prayer with gunfire and tossed grenades before blowing themselves up. The mosque was close to Pakistan’s army headquarters in Rawalpindi. Insurgents have targeted army and government installations over the past few months.

On Nov. 2, a team of militants attacked the army headquarters and held dozens hostage in a 22-hour standoff that left nine militants and 14 other people dead.

Violence in nuclear-armed Pakistan has escalated since the army launched an offensive in mid-October against Taliban militants in the northwestern tribal area of South Waziristan near the Afghan border.

Afghanistan NATO pledged to send an additional 7,000 troops to Afghanistan, starting in January,t. It’s not clear where the troops will come from.

Britain has already pledged 500 more soldiers, while Italy, Poland, Georgia and Slovakia are sending new deployments, from a few dozen to 1,000 — bringing the total NATO commitment of additional forces to as many as 8,000 troops, according to a senior diplomat at NATO headquarters here.

Adding up the numbers, that’s clearly less than half the 7,000. France previously said it would not send any additional troops.

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NEWS DAY | MN Dept of Health withholding H1N1 clinic info / Above average, but slipping / Stupid criminals on YouTube / Omar Jamal

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Want flu shot info? MN Dept of Health won’t tell you More H1N1 vaccine has been shipped to Minnesota, but the news has been kept quiet by the Minnesota Health Department, reports MPR:

But up to this point, the vaccine distribution process here has been shrouded in secrecy. Some Minnesota clinics have withheld information from the public about their vaccine supplies. And the state Health Department has deliberately kept quiet about which clinics and hospitals have received doses. …
The Minnesota Department of Health has encouraged clinics to be cautious about promoting their vaccine supplies publicly. In fact, as of today, the agency still refuses to publish a list of providers that have received the vaccine. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Cat fight in TC media world / Pawlenty and health care / Making prisoners pay / more

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Cat fight in TC media world David Brauer gleefully reports that the Strib publisher was taking potshots at MPR yesterday, just before today’s scheduled MPR forum on the future of news. A Strib article quoted Mike Sweeney, chair of the Star Tribune board on MPR’s expansion plans and its sponsorship of the forum: Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | Defending the public good / Home prices down – and up / Somali youth update / Shrinking skyways

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Defending the public good Eric Black points to a Minnesota Supreme Court order and opinions denouncing the $100 increase in lawyer registration fees necessitated by the short-changing of the judicial system by the legislative and executive branches last year. The issue is not just a fee on lawyers, but a failure of the legislature and governor to fund essential services through general revenues.

Some of the justices voted against the fee increase, saying it is a tax and that the court does not have the authority to levy a tax. The majority, however, voted to impose the fee increase on lawyers and judges, while noting that it pays for services that should be part of the general budget.

Justice Paul Anderson, a moderate Republican, votes for the increase, but wrote a 10-page opinion, explaining why this is the wrong way to fund public defender programs, detailing specific consequences of the underfunding on people and on the courts right now, and denouncing the anti-government ideology that applauds funding cuts:

By underfunding public defenders and leaving it up to our court to procure financial support from lawyers, the Governor and Legislature have failed to meet one of their fundamental responsibilties. The crisis faced by public defenders and the resulting need to impose fees ona specific professional group are the result of an unfortunate impasse which affects how the citizens of Minnesota create and maintain a civilized society. …
Some people, both at the national and state level, are so bold as to welcome this turn of events by clearly articulating their goal to shrink government down to a size so small that it can be drowned in a bathtub. The problem with this approach is that when you continuously put the government’s head under water, it is not the government that drowns — real people drown. Floodwaters breach levees and people drown. Bridges collapse and people drown. I have little tolerance for this anti-government rhetoric given the adverse consequences that result to real people, especially the least advantaged among us, when this myopic approach to governing actually gets translated into policy. I believe that government does have a proper, even an essential role to play in creating and preserving a civilized society. Meeting constitutional mandates is part of that role.

Both Black’s article and the thoughtful analyses by Anderson and the rest of the Supreme Court justices are worth reading in full.

Home prices down – and up The Star Tribune reports that median home prices fell across the country during the third quarter of 2009, compared to the third quarter of 2008, despite rising home sales. The median price nationwide was $177,900, about 11 percent below 2008 third quarter prices.

But the numbers tell several different stories. Reporting on the same National Association of Realtors survey, CNN notes that home prices rose from the second quarter of 2009 to the third quarter of 2009. So, while prices are lower than a year ago, they are higher than a couple of months ago.

CNN also breaks out the data by metropolitan area. In the Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington area, home prices fell by 9.9 percent in third quarter 2009, compared to third quarter 2008. That meant a median Twin Cities home price of $184,800 in the third quarter of 2009.

NAR attributed much of the recent increase in home prices to the government’s first-time homebuyer tax credit, which has helped revive home sales from a deep slump.

“We can’t underestimate just how powerful a catalyst the first-time homebuyer tax credit has been for the housing sector,” Yun said.

The homebuyer tax credit has been extended into 2010.

Somali youth update Is an arrest in the Netherlands connected to the departure of 20 Somali youth from Minnesota in 2007-2008? The Star Tribune reports that “Special Agent E.K. Wilson of the Minneapolis FBI office confirmed Tuesday that the man was arrested in connection with the ongoing counterterrorism investigation that began here when young men began disappearing in 2007.”

The man’s age – 43 – has been released, but his name has not. According to the Strib report, Dutch officials say “U.S. prosecutors suspect the man of bankrolling the purchase of weapons for Islamic extremists and helping other Somalis travel to Somalia in 2007 and 2008,” but U.S. prosecutors won’t comment.

While much of the story of the Somali youth remains shrouded in mystery, four people have pleaded guilty to some charges connected to the events, and six of the youth have died in Somalia. Suspicion of a local mosque seems to have lifted, as the Star Tribune reports:

In another development Tuesday, Mahir Sherif, an attorney for Sheikh Abdirahman Ahmad, of the Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center in south Minneapolis, where many of the missing Somali men were known to socialize or worship, said Ahmad was taken off the federal “no fly” list in the past month.


Shrinking skyways
MinnPost picked up on the skyway shrinkage story in St. Paul yesterday:

[A complaint served on Mayor Coleman] notes that the city skyways are required to be 12 feet wide, to easily accomodate pedestrian and wheelchair traffic, but in rebuilding some office space for Cray Inc. — the supercomputer maker that is moving into the downtown building — the skyway was narrowed without getting proper permits or variances.

Seems that developers are nibbling away at the publicly owned space, appropriating the public property for private use. Cray benefited to the tune of 124 square feet, but it isn’t the only culprit – Galtier gave away 500 square feet of skyway to private parties, some 10 years back. John Manillo, a downtown building manager, thinks that building owners should cough up the rent they collect on that footage, maybe into a fund for skyway improvements.

But rent isn’t the only issue. City law requires skyways to be 12 feet wide, in order to allow free passage of, well, anyone who wants to use a skyway, including people in wheelchairs. The latest incursion means that the skyway has narrowed to eight feet near Cray. Disability advocates say that just isn’t right, and express concern that if one building gets away with narrowing the skyway, others will follow suit.

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NEWS DAY | The plane / Animal stories / Flu scams / more

Question MarkWhat happened on that plane? Nobody knows, but the black box may tell. Pilots on Northwest Flight 188 say they were involved in a heated policy argument … that apparently distracted them so much that they didn’t see city lights below them, didn’t hear radio calls from Denver and Minneapolis, and completely lost track of the passage of time, as the plane flew over Minneapolis and continued for 100 miles off course into Wisconsin on Wednesday evening. Not everyone is buying the “heated argument” explanation, with some suspecting the pilots fell asleep. Continue reading

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NEWS DAY | War at home / MNDOT lowers hiring goals / Somali president visits / Seifert wins straw poll / War reports

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The war at home claims another life Pamela Taschuk, a 48-year-old juvenile probation officer and social worker, died Thursday, another casualty of the war at home. According to AP, Allen Taschuk dropped their 16-year-old son off at a gas station and then went to find and klll Pamela. Then he killed himself.

Pamela Taschuk was afraid of her husband, and had gotten a no contact order to keep him away after she filed for divorce last month.

AP: Since 1995, police were called to the Taschuk home 48 times – 22 domestic-related. Allen Taschuk was arrested three times, the most recent Aug. 26.

Pamela Taschuk told police that she feared for her life. The no contact order did not protect her.

Less than a month ago, North St. Paul police officer Richard Crittenden responded to a call for help from another woman with a violent partner. Like Pamela Taschuk, she had obtained a no contact order, in which the court told her partner to stay away from her.

MPR: Stacey Terry, his wife, had filed three orders for protection against him over the past nine years.

Like Allen Taschuk, Devon Dockery violated the no contact order. When Officer Crittenden answered the call for help on September 7, Dockery shot and killed him.

In 1994, the Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). According to MS Magazine, VAWA “changed the way the judicial system handles cases of intimate partner violence and increased the availability of public resources for victims.”

Pamela Taschuk is one of more than 200 women killed in domestic violence in Minnesota since 2000. The tools we use to address domestic violence may have improved with VAWA and subsequent state legislation, but those tools are not good enough.

The Star Tribune reports that St. Paul is about to launch a new initiative, called the Blueprint to assess when higher bail should be set for defendants in domestic violence cases.

“In the really lethal cases, our arrest or prosecution of them is not a deterrent to stopping their stalking or battery. It does deter them when they’re locked up,” [Comdr Steven Frazer, head of the Family and Sexual Violence Unit at the St. Paul Police Department], said. “We’re not making an argument on whether he’s coming back to court next week. We’re making an argument on whether he’s a threat to the people he’s been in contact with that warrants some other level of review.” …
According to most recent statistics, Frazer said, 54 percent of women killed in domestic situations had told police they believed they were going to be killed.

The Blueprint might have made a difference for Pam Taschuk. Her husband was released on $5,000 bail a month before he killed her.

The Blueprint might have made a difference for Officer Richard Crittenden. Dockery had been arrested more than once on charges related to domestic violence. He was arrested on August 26 on charges of violating the order of protection.

Here’s another suggestion — use technology to enforce the no contact orders. Both parties can wear an electronic ankle bracelet, and if they come in close proximity to one another, an alarm would sound in the police station. (Hat tip to Ron Salzberger for this suggestion.)  For some people, the knowledge that the police would be alerted might be a deterrent.

Of course, higher bail and stricter monitoring won’t solve all the problems. Rebecca McLane, program manager for the St. Paul Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, told the Star Tribune that a shift in society’s attitudes is needed.

Part of that, she said, would involve prioritizing. “If we could have anything in the world that we wanted, it would be more shelters, more advocates, more cops on the streets, and more close monitoring of these dangerous offenders,” said McLane, who added that the metro’s dozen battered-women’s shelters are nearly always full.

MNDOT moves the goalpost After years of failing to meet its own goal for contracting with women and minority-owned firms, the MN Department of Transportation has finally figured it out: rather than increasing hiring/contracting efforts, they will cut the goal. MPR reports:

For nearly the entire decade, companies awarded MNDOT contracts have fallen short, sometimes far short, of meeting hiring goals for women and minority subcontractors. …

A MnDOT consultant several years ago concluded contractors can attain the 15 percent goal since there are nearly 400 certified women and minority-owned construction companies. …

[Bernie Arseneau, director of the agency’s policy, safety and strategic initiatives division] said MnDOT’s goal for next year is 9 percent.

Hiring minority and women construction workers is the other half of the MNDOT challenge, and, reports MPR, “Every year for the past several years, the number of women and minority construction workers has stayed the same or declined.”

After months of protests led by the HIRE MN coalition, MNDOT has also found a way to address that problem, by hiring a consultant and agreeing to talk about the problem. For the first time, MNDOT also agreed to meet with HIRE MN representatives.

Sounds a lot like the MNDOT position back in March, as reported by the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder:

“For the first time, we are bringing all of the stakeholders together:
contractors, unions, minority groups, advocates, community groups, big contractors, DBEs, women, businesses, Mn/DOT, federal highway [officials]…so that we can grow the DBEs in such a way that serves the community needs, the contractors’ needs, and ultimately the needs of the citizens of Minnesota.

“We are fully and wholly committed to this transformational change,” said Arseneau.

Except that now the goalpost is lower.

Somali president visits The president of Somalia, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, visited the Twin Cities this weekend, meeting with community members, parents of Minnesota Somali youth who have gone to fight with militias, Minnesota politicians, and the Books for Africa project. On Sunday, he spoke to an overflow crowd at Northrup Auditorium. Minnesota is home to an estimated 70,000 Somalis, the largest population in the United States.

The Star Tribune reported that the president gave Somali families “assurances from Somalia’s leader that he would publicly denounce Al-Shabab.” Since Al-Shabab is the leading group fighting to overthrow his government, that seems like a safe bet. The Strib also reported that the president promised to find out who was recruiting the young men and to work for their return home.

Seifert wins GOP straw poll State Representative Marty Seifert came in first, with 37 percent of the vote, trailed by state Rep. Tom Emmer with 23 percent and former state auditor Pat Anderson (14 percent) and state Sen. David Hann (12 percent.)

About 1,200 delegates to the MN Republican convention voted in a straw poll Saturday, reports the Pioneer Press, which also cautioned that, “off-year straw polls are unreliable crystal balls” for predicting the eventual nominee.

Seifert, however, had a more optimistic assessment of the straw poll’s implications. “Republicans want to bet on a winner,” Seifert said. “They don’t want to bet on the horse heading to the glue factory.

The Pioneer Press reported that other candidates had less reason for optimism:

State Rep. Paul Kohls finished fifth with 5 percent of the vote. Trailing far behind were former state Rep. Bill Haas, Sen. Mike Jungbauer, businessman Phil Herwig and frequent candidate Leslie Davis.

Delegates also voted separately for their second choice for governor, and Hann (18 percent) came out first in that poll, followed by Emmer and Anderson.

War Reports

Afghanistan Eight U.S. troops were killed in a Taliban attack in the Nuristan province near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, reports NPR. Five or six Afghan fighters were also killed in the attack, and the Taliban fighters captured 15 Afghan police, including the chief and deputy chief.

Nearly 300 militant fighters flooded the lower, Afghan outpost then swept around it to reach the American station on higher ground from both directions, said Mohammad Qasim Jangulbagh, the provincial police chief. The U.S. military statement said the Americans and Afghans repelled the attack by tribal fighters and “inflicted heavy enemy casualties.”

Jamaludin Badar, governor of Nuristan province, complained about lack of security and lack of coordination between Afghan and allied forces. The U.S. forces plan to withdraw from the region.

Pakistan Five people in a U.N. food agency office were killed by a suicide bomber in an upscale area of Islamabad on Monday, according to NPR. The New York Times report on the bombing said about 80 people work in offices “equipped with video surveillance cameras, motion detectors and explosives detection devices.” The U.N. immediately ordered a temporary closure of all offices in Pakistan.

The bombing came a day after Hakimullah Mehsud, the new Taliban leader, appeared at a press conference. BBC reports:

Hakimullah Mehsud said his group would avenge the killing of former Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud by striking back at Pakistan and the US.

He said he would retaliate against recent efforts on the part of the US and Pakistani security forces to target senior Taliban figures.

Because of security fears, the press conference was attended only by five journalists who are members of Mehsud’s clan.
Iraq The government arrestred about 150 suspected Sunni militants in the Mosul area, according to BBC. The militants allegedly have ties to either al-Qaeda or the now-outlawed Baath political party formerly headed by Saddam Hussein.

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NEWS DAY | Lies, damn lies and the right wing / Guns for the President / Feminizing fish

Politifact's Pants-on-Fire is the highest (lowest?) rating for political lies.

Politifact's Pants-on-Fire is the highest (lowest?) rating for political lies

Lies, damn lies and the right wing Media Matters dissects the lies about the right-wing rally in DC, beginning with Michelle Malkin and continuing forever. Malkin lied about ABC News estimating the crowd at 2 million — ABC never did, and the crowd never exceeded 70,000, at the most generous estimate. Not only did Malkin lie, and not only were her lies picked up and rebroadcast widely, but some rightwing nutcase posted a photo purporting to show the huge crowd. That photo, however, was at least a decade old, according to Politifact.

Lies have legs. The photo and the tweets and the reports about a massive crowd turning out to protest will keep circulating.

Just like the birther nonsense. Repeat a lie often enough, and it creeps into the public discourse. That’s the charitable explanation for a Washington Post columnist Howard Kurtz referring to Kenya as “Obama’s native country.” Called on his misstatement in an on-line chat, Kurtz said he meant that Kenya was Obama’s father’s country. That’s not what he wrote, and his actual, published words — still uncorrected by either Kurtz or the Post — give support to the birthers.

And then there’s Joe Wilson’s latest lie, tracked by TPM.

Where is the mainstream media? They should be out in front, reporting the lie-of-the-day loudly and prominently. “Balanced” reporting does not mean repeating lies and truths as if they were equal.

Guns for the President As someone old enough to remember exactly where I was when I heard about the assassination of John F. Kennedy — and Martin Luther King, Jr. — and Bobby Kennedy, I cringe at the continuing reports of people taking guns to presidential appearances.

The latest case is right here, with the Star Tribune reporting on a Minnesotan toting a gun to the Saturday rally in Minneapolis. Like the rest of them, he claimed he was exercising his Second Amendment right to bear arms, and stayed just inside the confines of the law.

That’s not really the point, is it? When more people take guns to see the president, the Secret Service has more people to watch, stretching their resources and making it that much easier for a real assassin to slip through surveillance.

I grew up in a family where hunting was a way of life, and no one thought twice about owning or using guns. No one in my family ever brought a gun to church or school or a birthday party or a political rally, or even thought of doing so. We knew that guns were for shooting, and the message of carrying a gun is that you are planning to shoot it. If you carry a gun into the woods, you are planning to shoot deer or squirrels or rabbits. If you carry a gun into war, you are planning to shoot people. If you take a gun to a political rally, you are making a threat. That threat might be protected by the Second Amendment, but that doesn’t make it any less a threat.

Feminizing fish The U.S. Geological Survey studied fish in rivers across the country, and found the highest rate of feminized fish (male fish with female sex organs) right here in Minnesota. MPR reports:

In the Mississippi River, near Lake City Minnesota, 73 percent of the smallmouth bass had characteristics of both sexes.The feminization is thought to be caused by hormone-disrupting chemicals in the environment. They can include pesticides, PCBs, heavy metals, household compounds such as laundry detergent and shampoo, and many pharmaceuticals.

Cause for concern? Maybe — especially if you think that hormone-disrupting chemicals building up the environment could cause problems to more than fish.

Doctors support public option NPR has the latest word on where doctors stand on health care, from a poll of more than 2,000 doctors published in the New England Journal of Medicine:

Most doctors — 63 percent — say they favor giving patients a choice that would include both public and private insurance. That’s the position of President Obama and of many congressional Democrats. In addition, another 10 percent of doctors say they favor a public option only; they’d like to see a single-payer health care system. Together, the two groups add up to 73 percent. …
“Whether they lived in southern regions of the United States or traditionally liberal parts of the country,” says Keyhani, “we found that physicians, regardless — whether they were salaried or they were practice owners, regardless of whether they were specialists or primary care providers, regardless of where they lived — the support for the public option was broad and widespread.”

War reports | Somalia U.S. commandos entered Somalia and killed a top Al Qaeda operative there, according to the New York Times. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was a Kenyan Al Qaeda leader, who had been working with Shabab militants in Somalia and training other foreign operatives. He is believed to be linked to the bombing of an Israeli hotel in Kenya in 1998 and to attacks on two U.S. embassies in East Africa.

“This is very significant because it takes away a person who’s been a main conduit between the East Africa extremists and big Al Qaeda,” said the adviser, who like several United States officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the mission.

The helicopters, with commandos firing .50-caliber machine guns and other automatic weapons, quickly disabled the trucks, according to villagers in the area, and several of the Shabab fighters tried to fire back. Shabab leaders said that six foreign fighters, including Mr. Nabhan, were quickly killed, along with three Somali Shabab. The helicopters landed, and the commandos inspected the wreckage and carried away the bodies of Mr. Nabhan and the other fighters for identification, a senior American military official said.

BBC reports that al Shabab says it will retaliate for the killing.

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