Black hawk down redux: US launches airstrikes in Somalia

I've written a month ago:

US military presence in bases or in exercises and training are usually seen as precursor to intervention and war. In East Africa, where around 30 US National Guard soldiers from Guam have been training Ethiopian commandos in supposed "anti-terrorism" exercises, tensions have already flared up over a long standing border dispute. It is no surprise nor an accident that the US have been doing these trainings near the border and that the Islamic Somalian leadership have resisted these presence.

And now, we are not too surprised that they have carried out their air strike.


US launches air strike in Somalia
The US has carried out an air strike against members of a suspected al-Qaeda cell in a village in southern Somalia.

The targets were reported to have been tracked by aerial reconnaissance and then attacked by a US gunship launched from a US military base in Djibouti.

The US believes al-Qaeda operatives held responsible for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in East Africa have been hiding in Somalia.

The Somali transitional government says many people were killed in the raid.

The air strikes took place a few days after the Union of Islamic Courts, which had taken control of much of central and southern Somalia during the past six months, was routed by soldiers from Ethiopia and Somalia's transitional government.

The US accused the Islamists of having links to al-Qaeda - charges they denied.

There has been no official confirmation from the Pentagon that the air strike took place, but correspondents say a statement is expected within hours.

Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf backed the US action.

"The US has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania," he said in Mogadishu, a day after entering the city for the first time since the Islamists withdrew.

The bombing is the first overt military action by the US in Somalia since the 1990s and the botched intervention - known as Black Hawk Down - in which 18 servicemen died.

'Opportunistic attempt'

The attack was carried out by an Air Force AC-130, a heavily-armed gunship that has highly effective detection equipment and can work under the cover of darkness.

The US has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania
Somali interim president
Abdullahi Yusuf

One report says the US attack took place on Monday afternoon on Badmadow island, in an area known as Ras Kamboni on the southern tip of the country close to Kenya's border.

After fierce fighting, Ethiopian and Somali forces said on Monday that they were on the verge of capturing Ras Kamboni, one of the Islamist's last strongholds, where many fighters are now said to be cornered.

Many other Islamist fighters are in hiding.

The BBC's Adam Mynott in Nairobi says the attack seemed to be an opportunistic attempt by the US to destroy an al-Qaeda cell that they had been tracking for some time.

The cell is believed to be behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and Dar Es Salaam, in Tanzania.

More than 250 people died in the two attacks.

The US also holds the same group responsible for attacks on an Israeli aircraft and Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya in 2002, in which 15 people died.

Meanwhile, the US military said on Tuesday it had sent an aircraft carrier to join three other US warships conducting anti-terror operations off the country's coast.

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