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US airstrikes justified: Somali president

Abdullahi Yusuf defended a US air raid on his country, saying that it targeted Al-Qaeda militants.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2007 13:36 IST

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, who entered Mogadishu for the first time this week, defended a US air raid on his country, saying in comments published on Wednesday it targeted Al-Qaeda militants.

Many people died in the US strike on a southern Somali village occupied by fleeing Islamists believed to be sheltering Al-Qaeda suspects, Somali officials said on Tuesday.

The US strike, part of a wide offensive also involving Ethiopian planes, was apparently aimed at an Al-Qaeda cell said to include suspects in bombings of US embassies in east Africa and a hotel on the Kenyan coast.

"The Americans pursue Al-Qaeda terrorists anywhere in the world and (Monday's raid) is really a part of that," Yusuf told the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper by telephone.

"Those who carried out the assaults against the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were present here and this was what should have been done and it was the appropriate time to launch these attacks," the Saudi-owned paper quoted him as saying.

US, Ethiopian and Kenyan intelligence officials say some Islamists provided shelter to a handful of Al-Qaeda militants and that suspects in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania used Somalia as a base.

The gunfire from AC-130 planes on the village of Hayo late on Monday was the first direct US intervention in the Somali war that began last month.

Hayo falls in an area where Ethiopian and Somali government troops chased the remnants of Islamists who controlled the capital for six months but were routed after Ethiopia intervened with what diplomats say was tacit US consent.

First Published: Jan 10, 2007 13:36 IST