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The USA Has Bombed Somalia...Again!

soma | 25.01.2007 18:17 | Anti-militarism | Terror War

Here's the Reuters article:

MOGADISHU, Jan 24 (Reuters) - The United States has conducted a second air strike in Somalia, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, as the top U.S. envoy in East Africa met an ousted Islamist leader to press for reconciliation with the government.

The new air strike came two weeks after an AC-130 plane killed what Washington said were eight al Qaeda-affiliated fighters hiding among Islamist remnants pushed to Somali's southern tip by Ethiopian and Somali government forces.

One official said the targets this week were from the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), a militant group defeated by government troops with Ethiopian military backing in a two-week war started before Christmas.

A second source said the target was an al Qaeda operative.

"We're going to go after al Qaeda and the global war on terror, wherever it takes us," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

"Certainly, al Qaeda elements pose a threat not only to the United States, but they pose a threat to the stability of Somalia, as well," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Washington believes Somali Islamists have protected al Qaeda members accused of bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and an Israeli-owned Kenya hotel in 2002.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger met SICC leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who is being held by Kenyan intelligence in a Nairobi hotel.

Washington wanted to encourage dialogue and cooperation between the transitional government and more moderate Islamists, officials said.

"I think the issue here is simply to understand better the intentions of the Sheikh and to get to have that conversation," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on her way to a Paris conference on Lebanon.


Ranneberger, also responsible for Somalia, has said Ahmed is among those who could play a role in the inclusive reconciliation process Washington and many diplomatic players, believe is necessary to unify Somalia's multiple factions.

Ahmed, one of the most visible faces of the SICC during its six-month rule of most of southern Somalia, surrendered at the Kenya-Somalia border.

Diplomats say Kenya, with U.S. support, has pushed the Somali government leaders to sit down with Ahmed for talks.

"What we will do with him will depend on what type of man he is. But we will go back to our country, sit with my cabinet and decide what to do with him," Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf told a press conference in Rwanda.

Washington has long feared Somalia could become a playground for militants, since it has been in a state of anarchy since the 1991 fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

Even with a still-strong Ethiopian military presence in Somalia, attacks continued in Mogadishu -- a city full of military-grade weapons and people who oppose the government.

The latest attack struck the Mogadishu international airport, witnesses said.

"Two mortars were fired. One hit us and the other one hit the airport," Ahmed Abdi told Reuters from his bed at Madina hospital.

Many blame hardcore Islamist remnants for a spate of similar attacks against government and Ethiopian troops in the coastal capital. The SICC has vowed a guerrilla war, but some experts question their ability to mount a sustained campaign.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday said 200 soldiers pulled out on Tuesday to make way for a proposed African Union force of nearly 8,000 troops, which is still being put together.

Nigeria said on Wednesday said it would contribute a battalion of up to 1,000 troops.

Uganda and Malawi have also offered troops. South Africa and Mozambique are mulling participating.

Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahri vowed in a video posted on the Internet on Wednesday that Islamist fighters will defeat Ethiopian soldiers in Somalia. (additional reporting by Kristin Roberts and David Morgan in Washington)