A US Marine Corps attack helicopter is seen in a 2004 handout photo from the US Marine Corps (USMC). US attack helicopters launched fresh air strikes in southern Somalia, targeting the suspected command center of Al-Qaeda militants, a Somali defense ministry official said.
Helicopter gunships attacked suspected al-Qaida fighters in the south Tuesday after U.S. forces staged airstrikes in the first offensive in the African country since 18 American soldiers were killed there in 1993, witnesses said.
Witnesses said 31 civilians, including two newlyweds, died in the assault by two helicopters near Afmadow, a town in an area of forested hills close to the Kenyan border 220 miles southwest of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu. The report could not be independently verified.
A Somali Defense Ministry official described the helicopters as American, but the local witnesses told The Associated Press they could not make out identification markings on the craft. Washington officials had no comment.
On Monday, at least one U.S. AC-130 gunship attacked Islamic extremists in Hayi, 30 miles from Afmadow, and on a remote island 155 miles away believed to be an al-Qaida training camp at the southern tip of Somalia next to Kenya. Somali officials said they had reports of many deaths. The Pentagon confirmed the strike, but declined to comment on any details.
The Pentagon is now acknowledging the special operation:
The Somalia assault, however, was conducted by U.S. Special Operations Command and has been shrouded in secrecy. The military typically declines to reveal much about such missions by special operations forces, including the AC-130 gunships used in the Somalia attack, and Delta Force counterterrorism ground troops.
In this photo released by the U.S. Navy on Tuesday Jan. 9, 2007, An F/A-18C Hornet from the Wildcats of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131 lands aboard the flight deck of the the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower on Monday Jan. 8, 2007. The U.S. military said Tuesday it had sent the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower to join three other U.S. warships conducting anti-terror operations off the Somali coast. The aircraft carrier is part of the Navy’s Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet.
Stay tuned as operations continue……..
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