U.S. air strikes on Somalia confirmed

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Tuesday, January 9, 2007

An AC-130 gunship, like the one shown here, attacked a site in southern Somalia on Monday.

The Pentagon has confirmed that US forces began an on-going operation of airstrikes in southern Somalia on Monday, and that the attacks, targeted at Islamic militia, are continuing. Somalia's president had earlier said that the United States was pursuing suspects of the 1998 United States embassy bombings. It is believed that the militants are sheltering the suspects.

An attack against Ras Kamboni — a remote island near the Kenyan border, represents the first American involvement in the tumultous country since the the 1993 operation that resulted in the deaths of as many as 1,500 Somali militiamen and civilians.

A Somali Defence Ministry official has additionally reported that American helicopters launched an attack against ICU fighters in Afmadow, a city near the Kenyan border, 350 kilometres southwest of Mogadishu. The AC-130 gunship attack killed an unknown number of civilians, alternatingly reported as 4, 19 or 31.

Mixed reactions from international community

Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, expressed concern that the unilateral actions represented a "new dimension" that could escalate hostilities.

The concern was echoed by the Italian foreign ministry declared its "...opposition to unilateral initiatives which could set off new tensions" the Italian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Ethiopia, which borders Somalia, sent in troops on Dec. 24 to defeat the Islamic movement that was in contradiction with Somalia's internationally recognized government, which at the time controlled only the western town of Baidoa.