At least two incidents of US plane and helicopter bombed Islamists caught in a pincer between Ethiopian and Somali forces on the one hand and Kenyan troops on the other and many believe that key al Qaeda militants may have been killed in the attack.
Somali President Chief of Staff Abdirizak Hassan said that fazul Abdullah Mohammed charged with plotting and executing the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania was one those killed by the air strike. The US Army helicopter strike also strafed suspected al Qaeda fighters in Southern Somalia marking its first American offensive since 18 soldiers were brutally murdered by suspected al Qaeda operatives in 1993.
Confirming the attack, Pentagon officials say that their AC-130 planes hit Ras Kamboni a coastal village where many of the fleeing Islamists were taking defensive positions till they are extracted by small coastal boats. Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf defended the US bombing but many including the new U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, the European Union, and former colonial power Italy criticized the action. However, Interior Minister Hussein Mohamed Aideed denied reports that US special forces were working Ethiopian forces deep inside Somalia to neutralize the Islamists.
Ki-moon’s office said that he is “concerned about the new dimension” that this action would “introduce to the conflict” and perhaps escalate “hostilities.” Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema opposed the "unilateral initiatives that could spark new tensions in an area that is already very destabilized." Other experts fear that this action could cause a backlash both in Somalia and the region.
The US has dispatched USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, part of Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet, to join three other U.S. warships conducting anti-terror operations off the Somali coast to stop any ex-filtration of terrorists. According to U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa Jendayi Frazer, the US would use its diplomatic and financial resources to support the government and pledged $40 million in political, humanitarian and peacekeeping assistance.