US bombs Islamist town in Somalia

BBC News, March 3, 2008

An Islamist-held town in southern Somalia has been hit by three missiles, fired by a US plane, local elders say.

A US official confirmed launching a strike against "suspected terrorists". The US bombed the area a year ago and residents say it was the same plane.

Six people were killed in the air strikes on Dhoble town and 20 wounded.

Somalia's Islamist insurgents seized the town last week and one of their leaders Hassan Turki was reportedly in the area over the weekend.

"We woke up with a loud and big bang and when we came out we found our neighbour's house completely obliterated as if no house existed here," local resident Fatuma Abdullahi told the BBC.


The US anti-terror task force - based in neighbouring Djibouti - said it could not comment on the incident.

But a senior US military official, who declined to be named, told Reuters news agency in Washington: "We launched a deliberate strike against a suspected bed-down of known terrorists."

Islamist spokesman Sheikh Mukhtar Robow said the US was trying to hit Islamist hideouts in the area.

"The Americans bombed the town and hit civilian targets, thinking that they were Islamist hideouts. They used an AC-130 plane," he told the AFP news agency.

A local politician, who did not want to be named, told Reuters that the missiles had US markings.

Local official Ali Hussein told the BBC that many people were fleeing the town.

The border with Kenya has been closed for the past year.

There have been reports that the Islamists have been regrouping in the area around Dhoble in recent weeks.

They were ousted from the capital, Mogadishu in December 2006 by government forces, backed up by Ethiopia, with some intelligence from the US.

Dhoble was the last town they held.

The US accused the Somali Islamists of harbouring those responsible for the 1998 attacks on its embassies in Kenyan and Tanzania.

The Islamists denied this, as well as reports they had links to al-Qaeda.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991.

Last month, a senior UN official told the BBC that Somalia was the worst place in the world for children.

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