U.S. continues air strikes on Somalia
U.S. air strikes targeted four sites in southern Somalia on Wednesday amid growing international criticism over Washington’s military intervention.
"As we speak now, the area is being bombarded by the American air force," a Somali government official told Reuters.
The U.S. attacks targeted an area close to Ras Kamboni, a coastal village near the Kenyan border where many Islamists are believed to be hiding after being ousted by Ethiopia-backed government forces, the official added.
Four places were hit -- Hayo, Garer, Bankajirow and Badmadowe, the source said. "Bankajirow was the last Islamist holdout. Bankajirow and Badmadowe were hit hardest," he added.
Residents in the town of Afmadow reported two air strikes on Wednesday, but there were no reports of casualties.
The attacks follow U.S. air raids on Monday and Tuesday, which Somali officials said killed many civilians.
Correspondents say the situation on the ground in southern Somalia remains very unclear, with communications in the area poor.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon confirmed only one air strike that took place in the south of the country on Sunday, saying that it was part of a wider offensive aimed at an al-Qaeda cell that includes suspects in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa and a hotel in Kenya.
Somali officials said many people died in that attack – the first overt U.S. military action in Somalia since 1994, the year after 18 American troops were killed in Mogadishu.
A U.S. intelligence official said another attack on Monday on a southern Somali village killed one of three al-Qaeda suspects wanted for the 1998 embassy bombings.
Meanwhile, ABC News quoted U.S. and French military sources as saying that American U.S. special forces were working with Ethiopian troops on the ground in operations inside Somalia.
But Interior Minister Hussein Mohamed Aideed denied the report."There are no American ground forces inside Somalia. The American involvement is limited to air and sea," he said.
The U.S. strikes were defended by Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, but criticized by others, including new UN chief Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and former colonial power Italy.
Ban Ki-moon said he regretted the reported loss of civilian lives, and expressed concern that the U.S. actions may complicate peacekeeping efforts.
UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said the UN chief is “concerned about the new dimension this kind of action could introduce to the conflict and the possible escalation of hostilities that may result. “
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said that Rome opposed "unilateral initiatives that could spark new tensions in an area that is already very destabilized."
Analysts also criticized the U.S.’s military intervention in Somalia, warning that it would inflame anti-U.S. sentiments in the largely Muslim nation.
"Before this, it was just tacit support for Ethiopia. Now the U.S. has fingerprints on the intervention and is going to be held more accountable," said Ken Menkhaus, a U.S. Horn of Africa specialist. "This has the potential for a backlash both in Somalia and the region."
The United Nations Security Council is due to meet to consider moves to send African peacekeepers into Somalia. The initiative was agreed before the Islamic Courts were ousted by Ethiopia-backed government forces in late 2006.
Last month, the UN authorized an African peacekeeping force to protect the transitional government against the Union of Islamic Courts, who had taken control of much of central and southern Somalia over the past six months, before being ousted from the capital, Mogadishu, and driven south by government and Ethiopian forces.
The council also authorized the force to train Somali interim government troops, and lifted a UN arms embargo for the African troops.
The U.S. has long claimed that al-Qaeda suspects linked to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa are hiding in Somalia.
Washington also accuses the Union of Islamic Court of having links to al-Qaeda, charges they strongly deny. AJP and Agencies
Labels: Berita, Luar Negeri, Somalia