US ‘extends drone strikes to Somalia’

First such attack reported in east African nation reportedly wounds two leaders of anti-government group al-Shabab
Al-Shabab fighters parade new recruits after arriving in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, in October 2010 [Reuters]

A US drone aircraft is reported to have fired upon two senior members of al-Shabab, the Islamist anti-government armed group, in Somalia last week, marking the first time a US unmanned plane has been used for such an attack inside the country.
The strike, said to have been carried out on June 23, is believed to have targeted a convoy of fighters belonging to al-Shabab, which is fighting to overthrow Somalia’s weak Transitional National Government and impose Islamic law.
The attack was not immediately identified as a drone strike, but a senior US military official familiar with the operation told the Washington Post newspaper on Thursday that it had come from such an aircraft.

The strike would make Somalia the sixth country where the US has reportedly used drones to conduct air strikes.

They have also been used in Libya, Yemen, Iraq and most extensively in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The strike hit the convoy as it drove along the cost in Kismayo, a southern port town, the AP news agency reported. Two fighters were wounded.

Abdirashid Mohamed Hidig, the deputy defence minister, declined to identify who the fighters were or who carried out the attack, except to say it had been done by a “partner country”.

In 2009, a raid involving US special operations troops succeeded in killing Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan national wanted for a 2002 truck bombing at a tourist hotel in Mombasa.

Al-Shabab, which is believed to maintain links with al-Qaeda franchises, is growing stronger as it consolidates its hold on the majority of Somali territory, including more than half of the capital, Mogadishu.

“They have become somewhat emboldened of late, and, as a result, we have become more focused on inhibiting their activities,” the US official told the Post. “They were planning operations outside of Somalia.”

The Somali Transitional National Government, led by President Sharif Ahmed, relies on international funding and military support from the African Union to maintain its tenuous hold on power.

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