In Washington, US government officials said they had no reason to believe
that Fazul had been killed. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity
because of the information's sensitivity.
Fazul, 32, joined al-Qaida in Afghanistan and trained with Osama bin Laden,
according to FBI documents. The US put a $5 million bounty on his head for
allegedly planning the embassy bombings, which killed 225 people.
This week's air attacks were the first US offensive in Somalia since 18
American soldiers were killed here in 1993. The military's aim is to capture
al-Qaida members thought to be fleeing advancing Ethiopian-backed Somali troops.
Somalia's Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Aided said Wednesday that US special
forces were needed on the ground to help Somali and Ethiopian troops capture
Muslim extremists. "They have the know-how and the right equipment to capture
these people," said Aided, a former US Marine.
A senior Somali government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity
because of the sensitivity of the information, said a small US operations team
already was on the ground, providing military advice to Ethiopian and government
In Washington, two senior Pentagon officials said Wednesday they had heard
of no plans to put any sizable contingent of American ground troops in
Somalia. Small teams of liaison officers - such as special forces advisers or
trainers - were another matter, they said on condition of anonymity because
they were not authorized to speak on the subject.
US troops based in Djibouti have been training Ethiopian soldiers for
years, mostly in small-unit tactics and border security. Ethiopia has the
largest military and is America's closest ally in the region.
Meles said the success of the Ethiopian military intervention may have paved
the way for the American airstrikes.
"No one expected the terrorists would be running around in groups of five or
six without any protection," Meles said.
In the Somali capital, Mogadishu, some said the US air
attacks would increase anti-American sentiment in the largely Muslim country,
where people are already upset by the presence of troops from Ethiopia, which
has a large Christian population.