NAIROBI, Kenya — American warplanes launched a missile attack on southern Somalia yesterday against a suspected terrorist with links to Al Qaeda.
Three missiles fired from AC-130 aircraft hit the town of Dobley, five miles from Somalia's border with Kenya, destroying a house and injuring at least six people. A Pentagon official said it was a "deliberate and precise strike" aimed at a specific target — believed to be the head of the hardline Shebab youth organization, Hassan Turki — at a meeting of militant Islamists.
"This attack was against a known Al Qaeda terrorist," a Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, said. "As we have repeatedly said, we will continue to pursue terrorist activities and their operations wherever we may find them."
It was unclear if the attack had achieved its objective. It was the fourth air strike by American forces in Somalia in 14 months, all targeted at Somali hardliners who Washington believes are linked to Al Qaeda. None of the earlier attacks succeeded in killing the targets, America has admitted.
Yesterday's attack illustrates Washington's concern that Somalia is a breeding ground for terrorists bent on attacking Western interests in the Horn of Africa.
"We have not seen this kind of action from the Americans for some time," a Western diplomat in Nairobi said. "But the fact that they've sent the big guns in once again is a clear message that they've not forgotten about Somalia."
Dobley recently fell to militant Islamists who formed part of the Islamic Courts Union that ruled Somalia for six months in 2006. Somalia has been unstable since Ethiopia invaded in December 2006, with Washington's backing, to oust the Islamic Courts Union.