Abdul-Kadir Mohamed Abdul-Kadir, the al-Shabab leader targeted by US special forces in a failed weekend raid, is a Somali-based planner and operator who has plotted attacks on neighbouring Kenya, according to Kenyan and Western security services and agencies.
They have identified Abdul-Kadir, known by the alias "Ikrima", as the coordinator between al-Shabab and al-Qaeda.
"He is a planner who is relentless in coming up with operations in Kenya," said Matt Bryden, a former coordinator of the United Nations Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group. "He is one of the thinkers, planners, operational practitioners."
One US official said Abdul-Kadir was known as a major al-Shabab plotter. Another called him an "external operations" planner but said the US had no specific intelligence linking him to the September 21 Westgate mall attack in Nairobi.
A leaked Kenyan intelligence report suggests he was involved in planning attacks on a number of prominent targets, including plots to attack Kenya's parliament, assassinate senior Kenyan politicians and hit UN offices in Nairobi.
These plans failed, but so too did the US Navy SEALS mission into Barawe, a stronghold for the fighters on Somalia's southern coast.
For the foreseeable future, we must maintain focus on Somalia to sustain security progress made to date, as al-Shabab is likely to remain the primary threat to Somalia and East Africa stability for some time to come
The special forces team pulled out after a gunbattle without capturing Abdul-Kadir. However, an al-Shabab spokesperson said no senior figure was present when the US forces arrived.
In a hearing on Tuesday, US administration officials came under fire from veteran Senator John McCain for the failed weekend mission to capture Abdul-Kadir.
The officials would not go into details about the operation in public, saying they could only address it in a classified session, but argued that the US needed to continue supporting Somali authorities and other countries in the region in their fight against armed groups like al-Shabab.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Amanda Dory warned that although al-Shabab had been weakened by fighting with Somali, Ethiopian and the African Union AMISOM forces it was "still dangerous and capable of conducting sophisticated unconventional attacks".
"For the foreseeable future, we must maintain focus on Somalia to sustain security progress made to date, as al-Shabab is likely to remain the primary threat to Somalia and East Africa stability for some time to come," Dory said.
"With sustained assistance from the United States and other international partners, Somalia's national security apparatus will be better positioned to fend off the al-Shabab insurgency and gradually transform the fragile state into a success story," Dory added.