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USA's Somalia offensive
by Amin George Forji
2007-01-15 09:31:55
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The crisis in Somalia has now taken a new face, with the US military joining to track down suspected al Qaeda operatives. Heavily armed gunships from the US military base in Djibouti are said to have launched a series of military strikes on two villages called Badel and Hayi, in the town of Afmadow in the south of the country.

The villages were believed to be a safe haven and breeding ground for terrorists, many of whom were purportedly involved in the 1998 bombing of US embassies in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. Somali radio said that Air Force AC-130 and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower were used in the operation, since Air Force AC-130 planes are said to be effective under the cover of darkness.

Several rockets are said to have been directed to the roads that link up with the Kenyan borders. The so-called anti-terror operations are aimed at preventing al-Qaeda operatives, thought to be hiding in the country, from fleeing. The Tehran Times reported as many as 27 people dying in the strikes, but the figure is yet to be confirmed.

In its early broadcast on the US intervention, Somali radio stations announced that the US had begun the strikes after suspects were spotted fleeing along the villages in the remote island. The main target, the station speculated, was most likely Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and his associates, thought to be hiding in the region.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a well-known al-Qaeda terrorist who received training in Afghanistan, is thought to be the mastermind behind the 1998 embassy bombings that claimed the lives of at least 230 people and wounded over 4,000 others. He has been accused of organising several coordinated car bombings in the Middle East, including the failed 2002 attempt to bring down an Israeli airliner in Mombassa.

The attacks mark the USA's first direct intervention in the country since the mission in the '90s, when armed militias butchered 18 US troops and dragged their bodies through the streets of Mogadishu, which was shown on international news leading to an eventual premature withdrawal.

When Ethiopia launched an assault on the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), the US was one of the first countries to praise the move saying they were justified because they came at the request of the legitimate government in the country. At the dawn of the New Year, Islamists had been uprooted from virtually every sphere of control having seized much of the southern part of the country, except Baidoa where the transitional government was based.

As the Ethiopian mission proved to be a success, the US joined in, first from outside Somalia stationing her navy along the Kenyan coast bordering the country to prevent ringleaders of the UIC from fleeing the country.

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which seized the capital, Mogadishu in June 2006 and most of the Southern and central parts of the country helped to establish relative stability in their spheres of control. But, at the same time, they began fostering its own dream of transforming Somalia into an Islamic state, implementing what was generally qualified by the western media as a fundamental stream of Islam.

Furthermore, the group is accused by the Americans of having close links with the al Qaeda terrorist network. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the group's spiritual leaders, is on the USA's list of most-wanted terrorists. The US thus perceived the group's defeat as an opportunity to get hold of one of their most wanted. The group was also widely accused of orchestrating the September 18th suicide car bomb on the interim president, Abdullahi Yusuf, who made a narrow escape.

Although neither the White House nor the Pentagon have commented on the strikes, members of the transitional government have already made declarations justifying the attacks. President Abdullahi Yusuf said, "America has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies,'' while Hussein Aideed, the deputy PM, corroborated Mr. Yusuf by saying, "The USA has our full support for the attacks.''

With the USA joining the crisis, this may be the time for guerrilla warfare, as there is much anti-American sentiment in the predominantly Muslim country. Will this be another Iraq? The most I can say for now is that it is not far from meeting the worst.

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