US launches strike in Somalia against al-Qaeda throughout, including aim of January 2007 US strikes (Roundup)
Mar 3, 2008, 17:36 GMT
Washington/Mogadishu - The US military carried out an airstrike in a southern Somali town against a suspected al-Qaeda operative, a US defence official confirmed Monday.
'We launched a precision strike against a known terrorist in southern Somalia,' the defence official said.
The official did not provide details of the strike that occurred on Sunday or provide more information about the target. The United States in the past has attacked al-Qaeda operatives in the Horn of Africa nation.
The attack reportedly targeted two homes in the town of Dobley allegedly frequented by senior Islamist leader Hassan Turki, who is believed to have ties to al-Qaeda. At least six people were killed in the strike, witnesses.
'I woke up to loud blasts and flashing lights that shook my doors and windows. Airplanes were flying at a low altitude and were firing. I ran outside and hid under trees,' said Saed Abdulle, an elder in Dobley, which is just north of the border with Kenya.
Turki was in the region to mediate a conflict between his militias and government security forces, residents said.
Washington has been concerned that Somalia has become a safe haven and recruiting ground for al-Qaeda, and backed a successful Ethiopian effort in January 2007 to oust an Islamist group, known as the Union of Islamic Courts, which had seized power and isolated Somalia's transitional government.
In the same month, US AC-130 gunships fired on suspected al-Qaeda agents in southern Somalia.
The ouster sparked an insurgency by remnants of the Islamist group in the capital Mogadishu, where the transitional government has been unable to assert its authority. The conflict left more than one thousand people dead and displaced 600,000.
Hard-line Islamists, including those who helped coordinate the twin 1998 bombings on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, are believed to be hiding in Somalia's south.