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[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Somalia's Shabaab says air strike kills foreign fighter

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sun, 22 Jan 2012 00:52:30 +0100

Somalia's Shabaab says air strike kills foreign fighter

Sat Jan 21, 2012 8:13pm GMT

* Explosions in Elasha town, 13 km from Mogadishu * Rebels identify dead man
as Bilal el Berjawi * Kenya says making gains, al Shabaab disputes (Recasts
with comments by al Shabaab)

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU Jan 21 (Reuters) - A missile launched from an unmanned aircraft
killed a foreign fighter with Somalia's al Shabaab rebel group outside the
capital on Saturday, the al Qaeda-linked militant group said.

The militants, who earlier claimed explosions in the town of Elasha had been
caused by artillery fired by African Union forces, said the air strike
targetted Bilal el Berjawi as he travelled in a car.

"At around 1400 (1100 GMT), a U.S. drone targetted our mujahideen. One
foreigner, a Lebanese with a British passport died," Sheikh Ali Mohamud
Rage, al Shabaab's chief spokesman, told Reuters by telephone.

"He was in a car in Elasha. This foreigner is a martyr. Thank God, that is
why he came to Somalia," Rage said.

It was not possible to independently verify the report. The United States
never comments officially on drone strikes.

The Somali government has said hundreds of foreign fighters have joined the
Islamist insurgency from countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Gulf
region, and Western nations such as the United States and Britain. Some of
them have taken up senior positions within al Shabaab.

Earlier, residents in the Elasha area about 13 km (8 miles) from Mogadishu
reported hearing at least two blasts in an area known to be a rebel

"We heard two big explosions and then we saw clouds of smoke rising from
near the bases of al Shabaab, near the Al Hayaat hospital," Keise Osman, a
resident of Elasha, told Reuters.

Shortly after the attack, al Shabaab said a civilian car had been struck and
blamed the AU peacekeeping force, AMISOM. A peacekeeper spokesman told
Reuters AMISOM had not fired any shells at rebel positions at the time.

Somalis in central and southern Somalia regularly report drones flying

The United States has authorised covert operations in the Horn of Africa
nation in the past. U.S. special forces killed one of east Africa's top al
Qaeda militants, Kenyan-born Saleh Ali Nabhan, in southern Somalia in
September 2009.


On the backfoot in Mogadishu, al Shabaab are also fighting troops from
Kenya, which has carried out frequent air strikes on militant bases.

At a press conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, a Kenyan military
spokesman said on Saturday that a series of air strikes during the week had
destroyed four key rebel bases and brought the militants closer to breaking

"Al Shabaab is more than halfway defeated ... and this is based on the
destruction of their infrastructure," said spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna.

The militants, who have fought a five-year campaign to remove the
Western-backed government and control much of south and central Somalia,
rejected Kenya's claims.

"Kenya (did not) destroy a single al Shabaab base," said Sheikh Abdiasis Abu
Musab, a spokesman for al Shabaab's fighters. "It is propaganda."

Kenya's reliance on air bombardments and a slow ground advance on rebel
bastions have led some Western diplomats and regional experts to question
its strategy and capability.

Kenya, east Africa's biggest economy, initially placed much emphasis on
seizing Afmadow and Kismayu, a port city in southern Somalia that is a
nerve-centre of rebel operations. More recently, the military's rhetoric has
toned down.

"Emotions are running high about when will Afmadow go? When will Kismayu go?
We do not play to emotions, we do not play to the gallery. We plan our
operations and carry them out when we think the time is appropriate," Oguna

Kismayu, he said, remained a legitimate target. (Additional reporting by
Jacob Kuehn in Nairobi; Writing by Richard Lough; editing by Myra MacDonald)

C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved


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