A US Navy warship has carried out a missile attack on a Somali village where Islamist militants are reported to have set up a base. Somali officials said a remote village in the Puntland region was bombarded, days after foreign militants arrived.
US reports suggest the target was an al-Qaeda operative suspected of involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The strike would be at least the third by the US in Somali territory in 2007.
In early January, US forces tried to target three suspected members of al-Qaeda but were thought to have missed their targets. Later that month another strike hit an identified target in the south of the country, according to the Pentagon. Until now fighting between rival clan militias and remnants of Islamist militants, who seized control of large parts of Somalia for six months of 2006, has been concentrated in the south of the country. This is the first time the US has launched an attack in the Puntland region, home to Somalia’s President Abdullahi Yusuf, says the BBC’s East Africa correspondent Karen Allen.
The latest attack targeted a mountainous area around the village of Bargal in the northern province of Bari, in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Somali reports said. It followed clashes between local troops and foreign fighters after their arrival on Wednesday, which forced the militants into nearby hills. Residents spoke of a plane circling overhead assisting the warship with targeting. There was no word available immediately on whether anyone was injured or killed by the missile strikes.
“We cannot yet tell you the casualty figures, but what I can confirm is that the American warships bombed several targets in the surroundings of Bargal at night,” one resident, Mohamoud Salah, told the AFP news agency. The US did not comment directly on the latest reports, pointing out only that operations against terror suspects often needed to be carried out “quietly”.
“The very nature of some of our operations, as well as the success of those operations is often predicated on our ability to work quietly with our partners and allies,” a Pentagon spokesman said.
US officials have accused Islamist militias in Somalia of harbouring terrorists.