US aggression extends to yet another nation


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Copters attack Somalia militant suspects
By SALAD DUHUL, Associated Press Writer
32 minutes ago

Helicopter gunships attacked suspected al-Qaida fighters in the south Tuesday 
after U.S. forces staged airstrikes in the first offensive in the African 
country since 18 American soldiers were killed there in 1993, witnesses said.

Witnesses said 31 civilians, including two newlyweds, died in the assault by two
helicopters near Afmadow, a town in an area of forested hills close to the 
Kenyan border 220 miles southwest of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu. The report 
could not be independently verified.

A Somali Defense Ministry official described the helicopters as American, but 
the local witnesses told The Associated Press they could not make out 
identification markings on the craft. Washington officials had no comment.

On Monday, at least one U.S. AC-130 gunship attacked Islamic extremists in Hayi,
30 miles from Afmadow, and on a remote island 155 miles away believed to be an 
al-Qaida training camp at the southern tip of Somalia next to Kenya. Somali 
officials said they had reports of many deaths. The Pentagon confirmed the 
strike, but declined to comment on any details.

The U.S. is targeting Islamic extremists, said the Somali defense official, who 
spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to 
reporters. Earlier, Somalia's president said the U.S. was hunting suspects in 
the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa, and had his support.

The Islamic extremists are believed to be sheltering suspects in the embassy 
bombings, and American officials also want to make sure the militants will not 
longer pose a threat to Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government.

The assault was based on intelligence "that led us to believe we had principal 
al-Qaida leaders in an area where we could identify them and take action against
them," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, without confirming any details. 
"We're going to remain committed to reducing terrorist capabilities where and 
when we find them."

Whitman said the U.S. conducts "all operations with the close cooperation of our
allies in the region" but would not say if Somali officials gave permission for 
the raid.

White House press secretary Tony Snow said he was not aware of any consultations
with Congress before the assault.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Washington "has had concerns that
there are terrorists, and al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists, that were in Somalia."
He added that "we have great interest in seeing that those individuals not be 
able to flee to other locations."

The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived off Somalia's coast and 
launched intelligence-gathering missions over Somalia, the U.S. military said. 
Three other U.S. warships were conducting anti-terror operations.

U.S. warships have been seeking to capture al-Qaida members thought to be 
fleeing Somalia after Ethiopia's military invaded Dec. 24 in support of the 
interim Somali government and drove the Islamic militia out of the capital and 
toward the Kenyan border.

President Abdullahi Yusuf, head of Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional 
government, told journalists in Mogadishu that the U.S. "has a right to bombard 
terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania."

But others in the capital said the attacks would increase anti-American 
sentiment in the largely Muslim country, where people are already upset by the 
presence of troops from neighboring Ethiopia, which has a large Christian 
population. The U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, reissued a terror warning 
Tuesday to Americans living in or visiting the Horn of Africa.

Ethiopian and Somali troops at a base in Mogadishu came under attack Tuesday 
night when gunmen in two pickup trucks fired rocket-propelled grenades at them, 
witnesses said. One Somali soldier was killed and two others and a bystander 
injured in the attack, said minibus driver Harun Ahmed who took the wounded to 

Somalia's deputy defense minister described it as a "cowardly attack"

A U.S. government official said at least one AC-130 gunship was used Monday. The
official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the operation's sensitivity.

It was the first overt military action by the U.S. in Somalia since it led a 
U.N. force that intervened in the 1990s in an effort to fight famine. The 
mission led to clashes between U.N. forces and Somali warlords, including the 
"Black Hawk Down" battle that killed 18 U.S. soldiers.

Witnesses said at least four civilians were killed Monday evening in Hayi, 
including a small boy. The claims could not be independently verified.

Government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said it was not known how many people 
were killed, "but we understand there were a lot of casualties. Most were 
Islamic fighters."

Another AC-130 attack occurred Monday afternoon on Badmadow island, in a group 
of six rocky islands known as Ras Kamboni that is suspected as a terrorist 
training base. Dense thicket provide excellent cover and the only road to the 
area is virtually impassable, locals said.

The main target on the island was thought to be Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who 
allegedly planned the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es 
Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 225 people.

He is also suspected of planning the car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and 
the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten 
Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel, 12 miles north
of Mombasa. The missiles missed the airliner.

Leaders of Somalia's Islamic movement have vowed from their hideouts to launch 
an Iraq-style guerrilla war, and al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden's deputy has 
called on militants to carry out suicide attacks on the Ethiopian troops.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said in an interview published Tuesday in 
the French newspaper Le Monde that suspected terrorists from Canada, Britain, 
Pakistan and elsewhere were among those taken prisoner or killed in the military
operations in Somalia.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords 
toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other, 
sinking the Horn of Africa nation of 7 million people into chaos.

At least 13 attempts at government have failed since then. The current 
government was established in 2004 with U.N. backing.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he told U.N. 
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday that a U.N. peacekeeping force may be 
needed to guarantee security and stability in Somalia. He said Ugandan soldiers 
may be the first deployed to replace Ethiopian troops.

European Commission spokesman Amadeu Altafaj Tardio said Tuesday the U.S. 
airstrikes would not contribute to bringing about long-term peace.


Associated Press writers Mohamed Sheik Nor in Mogadishu and Chris Tomlinson in 
Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press.
Copyright © 2007 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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