U.S. Strikes Al Qaeda Targets in Somalia **BREAKING***
CNN Breaking: “The U.S. military strikes suspected al Qaeda targets in Somalia, a senior Pentagon official tells CNN.”
UPDATE: Reuters has details.
A U.S. gunship has conducted a strike against two suspected al Qaeda operatives in southern Somalia, but it was not known whether the mission was successful, U.S. news networks reported on Monday.
The U.S. Air Force plane, operated by the Special Operations Command, flew from its base in Djibouti to the southern tip of Somalia, where the al Qaeda suspects were believed to have fled from the capital Mogadishu, U.S. networks reported. A Pentagon spokesman said he had no information on the reports.
The two suspected al Qaeda operatives were not named but CBS News said one was a suspect in the car bomb attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and the other was the Islamist group’s senior leader in East Africa. The report said many bodies were seen on the ground after the attack by the AC-130 gunship, but the identities of the dead were not confirmed. The al Qaeda suspects fled Mogadishu after Ethiopian troops invaded on December 28 and were tracked with unmanned aerial drones as they moved south, CBS said.
NBC News reported that U.S. officials said Ethiopian forces, which had conducted raids in Somalia, had gathered intelligence on three potential al Qaeda leaders believed responsible for the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania. NBC reported that the airstrikes were part of an ongoing operation and that the U.S. aircraft carrier Eisenhower was moving from the North Arabian Sea toward Somalia to support the operation.
More from CBS:
A U.S. Air Force gunship has conducted a strike against suspected members of al Qaeda in Somalia, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports exclusively.
The targets included the senior al Qaeda leader in East Africa and an al Qaeda operative wanted for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa, Martin reports. Those terror attacks killed more than 200 people.
The AC-130 gunship is capable of firing thousands of rounds per second, and sources say a lot of bodies were seen on the ground after the strike, but there is as yet, no confirmation of the identities.
The gunship flew from its base in Dijibouti down to the southern tip of Somalia, Martin reports, where the al Qaeda operatives had fled after being chased out of the capital of Mogadishu by Ethiopian troops backed by the United States. Once they started moving, the al Qaeda operatives became easier to track, and the U.S. military started preparing for an air strike, using unmanned aerial drones to keep them under surveillance and moving the aircraft carrier Eisenhower out of the Persian Gulf toward Somalia. But when the order was given, the mission was assigned to the AC-130 gunship operated by the U.S. Special Operations command.
If the attack got the operatives it was aimed at, reports Martin, it would deal a major blow to al Qaeda in East Africa.
Meanwhile, a jungle hideout used by Islamic militants that is believed to be an al Qaeda base was on the verge of falling to Ethiopian and Somali troops, the defense minister said Monday.
I’m not sure about the “major blow” aspect, given that top al Qaeda leaders seem virtually interchangeable.