Somali govt hails US raid

September 16, 2009 12:00 am

, MOGADISHU, Sept 16 – Somalia’s transitional government on Wednesday lauded a US helicopter raid in the lawless Horn of Africa country this week that killed a wanted Al-Qaeda leader.

"We welcome the attack by the American forces in southern Somalia," said Abdi Mohamed Ulusow, a senior foreign ministry official.

"Somalia has long lacked stability and is engulfed in chaos. It cannot be a host for foreign troublemakers with criminal records in their countries," he added.

US officials confirmed the raid on Monday and said that Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan had been killed in the operation in southern Somalia, which witnesses said involved several helicopter gunships which targeted at least one vehicle.

Nabhan, a Kenyan, was wanted by the FBI over the 2002 anti-Israeli attacks in Mombasa.

Speaking to reporters in Kenya’s coastal city of Mombasa, Nabhan’s mother said she had not received any official notification of her son’s death.

"The government has said nothing about death of my son. Nothing like official confirmation," Aisha Abdallah said. "But we are ready to receive his body for burial if truly he was killed in Somalia."

"We entirely depend on the media to know about my son. I am with his wife here who has started observing the mandatory month of (mourning) according to Muslim religion in case her husband is dead… but we are still waiting to hear."

Kenyan police chief Mathew Iteere said Tuesday he was not aware whether Nabhan had been killed.

However, western security sources said bodies were taken aboard the gunships and brought to a US navy ship for DNA testing.

Nabhan was one of four top Al-Qaeda militants behind the 2002 attacks in which an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa was bombed and rockets were fired at an Israeli airliner.

Eighteen people died in the hotel attack, including three presumed suicide bombers.

Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab extremist group acknowledged that Nabhan was killed in the airborne raid, and vowed to avenge his killing.

Washington has repeatedly raised concerns that the Horn of African nation, which has been wracked by violence since 1991, is a safe haven for Al-Qaeda extremists.

According to Western security sources, six non-Somali militants — including Nabhan — boarded a vehicle on Monday morning in the coastal town of Merka, escorted by another car carrying three Shebab fighters.

The vehicles were struck by fire from one or several of the gunships shortly after the convoy stopped for breakfast, on their way to the southern Islamist stronghold of Kismayo.

The US military launched a missile strike targeting Nabhan in March 2008 near the border with Kenya but Monday’s successful ground and air operation was a first against Al-Qaeda in Somalia.


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