News 2008


Somali elders say four civilians killed in US air raid near Kenya/Somalia border

03. March 2008

MOGADISHU/Nairobi (AFP) - An Islamist-held town in Somalia came under attack Monday from what local elders identified as a US Air Force AC-130 gunship, leaving at least four civilians dead.

Elder Abdullahi Sheikh Duale said the raid occurred in the early hours of Monday morning, and appeared to have focused on three particular targets in the Dhoble town near the Kenya-Somali border.

"Four civilians were killed," said Duale.

There was no immediate US confirmation of the operation.

Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, a spokesman for the Islamist movement which is leading an insurgency against the Somali government, confirmed the attack.

"The Americans bombed the town and hit civilians targets thinking that they were Islamist hideouts. They used an AC-130 plane," Robow told AFP.

The AC-130 is a fearsome gunship bristling with side-mounted cannons that can saturate an area with devastating fire or strike targets with surgical precision.

The modified C-130 aircraft are used by air force special operations forces for close air support missions, strikes on select targets and to protect US forces in the field.

Carrying a crew of 13, it flies low and operates at night for concealment and surprise.

If confirmed, this would be at least the third time the US military has conducted operations inside Somalia since the start of 2007.

In June last year, a US Navy destroyer shelled suspected Al-Qaeda targets in mountainous and remote areas in northeastern Somalia where Islamist militants were believed to have bases.

Earlier the same year a US gunship bombed insurgent positions in southern Somalia, coming to the aid of the Somali government forces which had ousted the Islamists from most of the country's southern and central regions.

US officials said the previous attacks were aimed at "high-value" Al-Qaeda militants -- among them Comoran Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, blamed for the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.

US Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain, which oversees the Djibouti military base, referred calls to the US Department of Defense in Washington.

Since the Islamists were ousted from power in early 2007, they have been carrying out attacks against government officials, Ethiopian forces -- who are backing the Somali government -- and African Union peacekeepers.

Somalia has never really recovered since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre plunged the Horn of Africa nation into widespread clan fighting.