MOGADISHU, Somalia - Ethiopia's prime minister said Wednesday the US military
targeted 20 high-level members of an Islamic movement linked to al-Qaida in an
airstrike this week in southern Somalia, attacking quickly before the Islamists
The chief of staff for the Somali
president claimed that a senior al-Qaida figure was killed in Monday's
airstrike, although US officials did not confirm it.
In this photo released by the US Navy, an F/A-18E Super
Hornet from the 'Pukin' Dogs' of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143
launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS
Dwight D. Eisenhower, Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2007. [AP]
The air assault has been criticized internationally, with the African Union,
European Union and United Nations among those expressing concern. But British
Prime Minister Tony Blair told lawmakers it was right to stand up to extremists
who were using violence to "get their way" in Somalia.
Somali lawmaker Abdulrashid Hidig said the US launched a new airstrike
Wednesday around Ras Kamboni, a rugged coastal area a few miles from the Kenyan
border where Monday's attack took place. He cited the Somali military as the
source of the information.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told reporters in his country's
capital, Addis Ababa, that eight suspected terrorists were killed in Monday's
airstrike, five were wounded and taken into custody by Ethiopian forces, and
Meles said most of the victims were Somali, but the identities would not be
confirmed until DNA testing is completed.
He said Ethiopia and the US have been cooperating on intelligence, and that
most of the information has come from the Americans. He also said the Ethiopians
did not provide any intelligence that led to Monday's airstrike.
"I do not know how the Americans got the information, but they appeared to
have some credible information," he said. "Apparently they felt if they did not
strike quickly, the target would be missed."
However, a US military official based in the region said the Ethiopian
military had provided the intelligence that led to the strike. "We acted on
time-sensitive intelligence and made the strike in cooperation with the
Ethiopians," said the US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because
of the sensitivity surrounding US special operations missions.
In Washington, an intelligence official said the US killed five to 10 people
Monday in the attack on an al-Qaida target in southern Somalia. A Somali
lawmaker said 31 civilians died Tuesday when helicopter gunships attacked
suspected al-Qaida fighters in the south.
The US military official said Tuesday's strike was probably carried out by
Ethiopia since the aircraft were identified as Russian-made Hind helicopter
gunships like those used by the Ethiopian military.
Abdirizak Hassan, the Somali president's chief of staff, said at least three
US airstrikes have been launched since Monday and that more were likely.
The al-Qaida suspect believed to have been killed Monday was Fazul Abdullah
Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya
and Tanzania, Hassan said. He cited a US intelligence report that was given to
If confirmed, it would mean the end of an eight-year hunt for one of the
FBI's most-wanted terrorists. Fazul was believed to have been harbored by the
Somali Islamic movement that had challenged the country's Ethiopian-backed
government for power.