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Army Times: How the U.S. Hunted al-Qaeda in Africa

Author: Sean D. Naylor
November 15, 2011

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This six-part series from the Army Times looks at U.S. military operations in the Horn of Africa after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

One night in November 2003, beneath the moon-washed waters off Somalia's northern coast, a small, dark shadow slipped away from the attack submarine Dallas and headed toward the shore.

The smaller shape was a 21-foot-long submersible called a SEAL delivery vehicle.

Launched from a tubular dry deck shelter on the sub and designed to infiltrate Navy SEALs on covert or clandestine missions, the SDV carries its crew and passengers exposed to the water, breathing from their scuba gear or the vehicle's compressed air supply.Aboard were a handful of SEALs on a top-secret special reconnaissance mission into a country with which the U.S. was technically not at war.

The SEALs grounded the SDV on the ocean bottom and pushed away from it, taking with them the centerpiece of their mission, a specially disguised high-tech camera called a Cardinal device.

Unbeknownst to them, during the previous 24 hours, their mission had been the subject of Cabinet-level debate in Washington and had almost been canceled until President George W. Bush gave the go-ahead.

Part I: "The Secret War."

Part II: "Lack of Human Intel Hampered AQ Hunt in Africa."

Part III: "Clandestine Somalia Missions Yield AQ Targets."

Part IV: "Years of Detective Work Led to al-Qaida Target."

Part V: "The Secret War: Tense Ties Plagued Africa Ops."

Part VI: TBD

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