Who's bombing Somalia? French, US trade blame
* The Associated Press
* Posted November 17, 2011 at 12:39 p.m., updated November 17, 2011 at
NAIROBI, Kenya - NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) - When thundering explosions rattled a
small Somali town during a meeting of Islamist insurgent leaders, it sent
them scurrying for safety. An international military appears to have
launched the powerful, well-timed attack, but no one will admit it.
The two top possibilities - the U.S. and French militaries - both deny
responsibility. Officials from the two countries even suggested it might be
Sunday night's explosion in Afgoye, a heavily populated corridor along a
main road leading out of the Somali capital came as Somalia's
al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militia is fighting to defend itself on two
fronts. African Union soldiers have taken over the capital of Mogadishu, and
Kenyan soldiers crossed the border into southern Somalia last month.
But neither Kenya nor the AU force - known as AMISOM - was likely to have
launched the attack, said Lauren Gelfand, the Africa and Middle East editor
of Jane's Defense Weekly.
"To have that kind of strike capability is completely beyond AMISOM. They
have no air support," said Gelfand. "The Kenyan F5s (jets) do have the
capability, but whether they have the precision is unlikely."
None of the militant leaders were believed to have been killed.
Kenya's military spokesman said Kenya was not behind the Sunday strike.
Kenya has acknowledged other bombing raids in recent weeks.
"The Americans do have the assets required for a targeted strike in the
region, as do the French," said Gelfand. "(The French) have a base in
Djibouti from which they launch their tactical support to the European
Union's anti-piracy operations."
Both the United States and France have motives for launching a missile at
The U.S. lists al-Shabab as a terrorist organization and has previously
killed its leaders or al-Qaida operatives among them with either missile
strikes or a special forces helicopter raid. U.S. officials are alarmed by
al-Shabab's recruitment of young Americans. Most, but not all, are the
children of Somali immigrants.
Al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Mohamed Godane, also known as Abu Zubayr, was
meeting other senior leaders in Afgoye when the explosion happened, said one
senior Somali official. He said that witnesses said it seemed to "come from
the sky" but that it was difficult to get information from the site because
al-Shabab fighters blocked it off.
Godane has encouraged the militia's ties to al-Qaida in the face of
reluctance from other leaders.
The official, like the other officials interviewed for this story, spoke on
condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
Despite the U.S. concerns, a senior U.S. official at the Pentagon denied
that America was behind the Afgoye attack. Another U.S. official suggested
it was more likely to be France, which also has warships and military assets
in the region.
The French are not known to have previously launched missiles into Somalia
but have carried out commando raids immediately after the release of French
hostages by Somali pirates. Last month Somali gunmen abducted an elderly
French woman from her home on Kenya's coast. She died shortly afterward.
Another French hostage, a military official, has been held for more than two
But a French official said France does not have the capability to launch
missiles from a drone and that there were no French warships in the area at
the time. He said the strike appeared to be a U.S. operation.
Kenyan officials have said they are not receiving much international
assistance for their operations in Somalia, although Kenyan Prime Minister
Raila Odinga said that he had received some promises of support from Israel
during a visit earlier this week.
Al-Qaida tried to shoot down an Israeli jetliner in Kenya in 2002 and bombed
an Israeli-owned luxury hotel on Kenya's coast at the same time, killing 13
Kenya previously bought three Herons, a type of unmanned aerial vehicle used
for reconnaissance, from Israel in 2009. An international diplomat said one
crashed several months ago over the port city of Kismayo, the insurgent's
A Kenyan military spokesman said he was unable to comment.
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Received on Thu Nov 17 2011 - 16:07:13 EST