, WASHINGTON, Sep 27 – An unidentified foreign military helicopter fired rockets at a weekend meeting of militants likely linked to the Shebab insurgency in Somalia, The New York Times reported Monday.
Residents in the seaside Shebab stronghold of Merca told the Times a foreign military helicopter flew in from the ocean then circled the town at low altitude before the attack early Sunday.
The rockets nearly killed several Shebab leaders, an official from the group told the newspaper.
The missiles struck "between two houses, and for God\’s sake no one has been killed or injured in the attack," the unnamed official said. "It was in fact a house where Shebab officials were meeting."
Senior Pentagon and military officials in Washington told the Times that no US aircraft were in the area and that the United States was not involved in the attack.
Shortly after the attack, the group blocked roads, began investigating and seized cellphones from local reporters, residents told the newspaper.
Somalia\’s weakened transitional government only retains a shaky control of Mogadishu with African Union peacekeepers.
On Saturday, western-backed President Sheikh Ahmed appealed for greater international support including more troops to fight Islamists.
Sharif told world leaders at the UN General Assembly that Al-Qaeda was working with the Shebab militants, who now control much of central and southern Somalia, which has been in conflict for more than two decades.
Assistant US Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said that in addition to supporting Sharif\’s government, the United States would also "engage more actively" the breakaway regions of Puntland and Somaliland.
The United States will also "reach out" to groups in south central Somalia, including local governments and clans, that oppose the Shebab militants.