U.S. Confirms Second Air Strike in Somalia

The United States has conducted a second air strike in Somalia, U.S. officials said on Wednesday, as the top U.S. envoy in East Africa met an ousted Islamist leader to press for reconciliation with the government.

The new air strike came two weeks after an AC-130 plane killed what Washington said were eight al Qaeda-affiliated fighters hiding among Islamist remnants pushed to Somali's southern tip by Ethiopian and Somali government forces.

One official said the targets this week were from the Somalia Islamic Courts Council (SICC), a militant group defeated by government troops with Ethiopian military backing in a two-week war started before Christmas.

Ethiopian soldiers attend a parade in Afisiyooni air base in Somalia's capital Mogadishu January 23, 2007.

A second source said the target was an al Qaeda operative.

"We're going to go after al Qaeda and the global war on terror, wherever it takes us," said Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman.

"Certainly, al Qaeda elements pose a threat not only to the United States, but they pose a threat to the stability of Somalia, as well," U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington.

Washington believes Somali Islamists have protected al Qaeda members accused of bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 and an Israeli-owned Kenya hotel in 2002.

On Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger met SICC leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, who is being held by Kenyan intelligence in a Nairobi hotel.

Washington wanted to encourage dialogue and cooperation between the transitional government and more moderate Islamists, officials said.

"I think the issue here is simply to understand better the intentions of the Sheikh and to get to have that conversation," said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on her way to a Paris conference on Lebanon.

Source : AFP

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