The man whom U.S. Navy SEALs tried to seize in Somalia this past weekend is a senior operative of al-Shabab who has tried to expand the reach of the al-Qaeda-linked militia into Kenya, a critical U.S. ally in East Africa, according to analysts and officials.

The attempt to capture Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir, also known as Ikrima, failed. Arriving in speedboats, the U.S. commandos engaged in a fierce gun battle with al-Shabab militants in the oceanside town of Barawe before retreating. Ikrima is believed to have survived the assault on his villa.

Ikrima is suspected of being an operations planner and recruiter for al-Shabab as well as a key figure in al-Hijra, a shadowy Kenyan group that has become al-Shabab’s wing inside Somalia’s East African neighbor.

A Kenyan citizen of Somali descent, Ikrima routinely travels between Kenya and Somalia, according to analysts. He has planned or carried out major attacks in both countries since 2011, according to Kenyan intelligence officials, U.N. security experts and regional analysts.