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US Preparing Air-Strikes Against Al-Qaeda In Somalia: Official
This picture, released by the US Navy, shows an F/A-18E Super Hornet launching from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in January 2007. US warplanes are overflying the northern Somali region of Puntland in preparation for air-strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda fugitives, more than a week after US warships shelled the area, officials said Tuesday.
MOGADISHU, June 12, 2007 – US warplanes are overflying the northern Somali region of Puntland in preparation for air-strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda fugitives, more than a week after US warships shelled the area, officials said Tuesday.
The semi-autonomous regional government had authorized the overflights to pursue Al-Qaeda members believed to be hiding in the mountainous area, Puntland's security minister Ibrahim Artan Ismail told reporters.
"We know that American warplanes are overflying Puntland territory. This air surveillance is part of an agreement reached between Puntland authorities and the Americans," Islamil told a news conference in northern Somali town of Bosasso.
"The warplanes are looking for Al-Qaeda hideouts and when they get them, they will bomb them," he said, adding that the air operation covers areas where intelligence shows Al-Qaeda elements are hiding.
Residents told Somali media that US planes have been overfying the area.
Ismail asked residents of the inland mountainous areas and the hilly shoreline "not to worry about planes flying over them."
A US navy destroyer shelled the coast on June 2, killing at least 12 Islamist fighters, including foreigners, who were believed to be allied to extremist groups, Puntland officials said.
CNN reported that the destroyer was targeting a suspected Al-Qaeda operative believed to have been involved in the 1998 attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people.
Earlier this year, a US plane bombed positions in southern Somalia after Ethiopia-backed Somali government forces ousted a powerful Islamist movement from the country's southern and central regions. Local elders said more than 100 civilians were killed.
The targets were suspected Al-Qaeda operatives blamed both for the 1998 US embassy bombings and the 2002 suicide attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan port of Mombassa that killed 15 people.
Among the so-called "high value" Al-Qaeda militants believed to be in Somalia are Fazul Abdullah Mohammed from the Comoros, Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Sudanese national Abu Taha al-Sudani, an arms expert believed to be close to Osama bin Laden.
Others are Sheikh Dahir Aweys, the hardline cleric heading Somalia's Islamic Courts Union, and Adan Hashi Ayro, the commander of the Islamists' militia wing, the Shabaab.
A US force is based in Djibouti and patrols the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Aden as part of the US-led "war on terror".
US intelligence says Al-Qaeda has stepped up operations in Somalia, a nation of about 10 million people wracked by lawlessness since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre.
Somalia 's Puntland and neighboring Somaliland regions have declared a form of autonomy and have enjoyed relative stability compared to Somalia proper, which has been wracked by lawlessness since 1991.