"It's a trifecta for the group," Pantucci said in an interview Sunday. "It brings attention, causes chaos and is successful."
Leaving the violence unanswered could be a further boon for the organization.
Up until now, President Barack Obama secretly has authorized only two drone strikes and two commando raids against the al-Qaida linked terrorists in Somalia, while a small U.S. special operations team has advised African peacekeeping troops, as well as helping build a small elite Somali counterterrorism force, according to two former U.S. military officials familiar with the operations.
Two former U.S. counterterrorism officials say the preference has always been to meet specific incidents with a specific response but to avoid getting too deeply involved in the continent of Africa.
"The 'don't expand the fight' argument has always won," one said.
They said the number of western citizens among the dead and injured in the weekend incident may change the U.S. calculation.
EDITOR'S NOTE — Kimberly Dozier reports on intelligence and counterterrorism for The Associated Press in Washington.
Follow Dozier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberlydozier
An AP News Analysis
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