Tuesday, January 09, 2007

U.S. Strikes Escaping Somali Islamists

The U.S. media is portraying the AC-130 strike against several hundred Somali Islamists as strictly an attack against an Al Qaeda terrorist (see WaPo account).

The more likely scenario is the U.S. desire not to allow the recently routed Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the opportunity to slip away into Kenya to fight another day.

The British media is running a version that is much closer to the truth.

By attacking Islamist fighters in Somalia the United States is trying to achieve two objectives.

It wants to intervene decisively on the side of the transitional government now back in Mogadishu and to get at three al-Qaeda suspects linked to bombings of its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and attacks on an Israeli-owned hotel and airliner in Kenya in 2002.

The air strikes were carried out by a huge AC-130 gunship in the south of the country where supporters of the Union of Islamic Courts have retreated under attack from the Ethiopian army and soldiers of the transitional government.

US aircraft have carried out reconnaissance flights over Somalia and it is believed that the US provided Ethiopian forces with intelligence support during the recent offensive.

At the same time, US warships have been patrolling the Somali coast to prevent any escape by sea.

The strategy is to ensure that the Islamist fighters do not regroup and pose a threat to the government.

Only last week a statement believed to be from al-Qaeda's number two Ayman al-Zawahiri urged Muslims to "rise up to aid their Muslim brethren in Somalia".

The Americans and their Somali and Ethiopian allies therefore feared a guerrilla war that might threaten efforts to establish the new government. They are determined to stop the Islamic Courts from resuming power.


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