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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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October 7th, 2013
07:18 PM ET

U.S. commandos target wanted terrorists, launch raids in Libya, Somalia

Many counterterrorism officials say that Africa – not Pakistan or Afghanistan – is now the central front in the U.S. military's war against al Qaeda. Two U.S. strikes were carried out in Africa over the weekend.

In Somalia, the target was Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, called "Ikrima," a leader of al Shabaab, the terrorist group behind the recent horrific attacks at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.

In Libya, the the U.S. captured Abu Anas al Libi, a member of al Qaeda indicted in the 1998 embassy attacks, listed as one of the FBI's top ten terrorists.

Two terrorists, two different operations, and two very different results.

The Somalia mission began before sunrise Friday, from a commercial ship off the coast.

U.S. Navy SEALs, some from Seal Team Six, which took out Osama bin Laden, targeted a safe house in an al Shabaab stronghold. Witnesses say they came under intense fire and retreated back to the beach, then back to their ship.

Sources say the retreat was because this was a capture operation, that the SEALs could have liquidated the place and killed Ikrima, but that would have almost certainly created civilian casualties.

Why go after al Shabaab if it has not attacked the U.S. mainland?

"They haven't sought directly to attack the mainland yet, but remember, they conduct an operation against our embassies or their predecessor elements conducted an operation against our embassies in 1998, 15 years ago. They will come after the United States if we don't go after them," former Pentagon chief of staff Jeremy Bash told Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union."

A more successful African mission came one day later, some 3,000 miles away in Tripoli, Libya.

Cars pulled up on the street to al Libi, reportedly returning home from morning prayers, and ten members of the elite Delta force grabbed him. Not one shot was fired.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh visited al Libi's home, and spoke to his wife Umm Abdul Rahman, who claimed her husband left al Qaeda in 1996.

"They took us by surprise, this thing came all of a sudden. There was no longer any talk about him in the media, so we felt somewhat reassured. He even stopped taking his weapon, or his sons with him, or hiring private security, he was living his life normally," said Rahman.

The Pentagon says al Libi was taken to a U.S. Navy warship. He is being questioned by the U.S. government's high-value interrogation group.

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