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Thursday, January 11, 2007

Somali airstrikes miss al-Qaida target, Fazul still alive says US official

Also in the news: [Life sentence for Mengistu Haile Mariam] - [U.S. special forces on ground in Somalia] - [Door-to-door weapons search sparks violence in Mogadishu] - [Somali and Ethiopia forces skirmish with Islamic militiamen] - [U.N. backs deployment of troops to Somalia]

International: [Condoleezza warns US will take action ] - [Dodd declares '08 presidential candidacy] - [Iran, Syria denounce Bush's Iraq plan] - [U.S. Troops Raid Iranian Consulate in Iraq] and more of today's top stories

Somali airstrikes miss al-Qaida target, Fazul still alive says US official

ETP - It was reported yesterday that intelligence for the U.S air strike was provided by the government of Ethiopia. Today’s story begs the question - how reliable/candid is the intelligence the Ethiopian government provides the U.S? The U.S is stuck in Iraq today due to faulty intelligence provided by the likes of Mr. Ahmed Chalabi who had their own personal agenda. The same could be true in this case. Before the U.S starts becoming directly involved and sending in troops to Somalia, it should evaluate the motives of all its intelligence sources – especially that of the Ethiopian government.

A U.S. ambassador says an airstrike targeting a senior al-Qaida figure in Somalia did not get him and denied reports civilians had been killed in the attack.

None of the top three suspected terrorists in Somalia were killed in a U.S. airstrike this week, but Somalis with close ties to al Qaeda were slain, a senior U.S. official in the region said Thursday.

A day earlier, a Somali official had said a U.S. intelligence report had referred to the death of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed — one of the three senior al Qaeda members believed responsible for bombing U.S. embassies in East Africa.

In Washington, U.S. government officials said Wednesday they had no reason to believe that the chief suspect, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, had been killed. U.S. and Ethiopian troops in southern Somalia were still pursuing the three, the U.S. official said Thursday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record to the media. (More...)

Life sentence for Mengistu Haile Mariam

ADDIS ABABA (AFP) - An Ethiopian court has sentenced former dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam to life in prison for genocide and other crimes, but Zimbabwe swiftly ruled out his extradition from exiled luxury.

The sentence, handed down in absentia, followed the Ethiopian Federal High Court's conviction in December of Mengistu and 11 of his top aides on 211 counts of genocide, homicide, illegal imprisonment and illegal property seizure.

"The death sentence will not be conducted because the court believes that other punishments are adequate enough," Justice Nur Mohammed said Thursday. "The court has decided that the life imprisonment is the most extreme punishment sentence today here."

The prosecution had wanted Mengistu executed on his conviction at the conclusion of the marathon 12-year trial that ended on December 12.

A further 60 defendants were also found guilty of genocide, but only by a majority 2-1 ruling by the judges, who acquitted some but not all on several of the lesser charges.

Only one defendant was acquitted on all charges.

The trial related to atrocities committed during the 1977-78 "Red Terror" period when tens of thousands of people were killed or disappeared in Mengistu's bid to turn Ethiopia into a Soviet-style workers' state.(More...)

U.S. special forces on ground in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- American and Somali officials say a small team of U.S. special operations forces are in Somalia hunting suspected al-Qaida fighters.

But two senior Pentagon officials say they've heard of no plans to put any sizable number of U.S. ground troops in the African nation.

Meanwhile, Ethiopia's prime minister says the U.S. military targeted 20 high-level members of an Islamic movement linked to al-Qaida in an airstrike Monday in southern Somalia. The chief of staff for the Somali president claimed a senior al-Qaida figure was killed in the strike, but American officials have not confirmed that. (More...)

Door-to-door weapons search sparks violence in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Mogadishu exploded in violence Wednesday morning after unknown insurgents attacked a transitional government barracks during the night and soldiers responded by sealing off portions of the city, searching house to house for guns.

The weapons raids immediately provoked stiff resistance, and squads of Ethiopian soldiers and troops loyal to the transitional government poured into the streets, where they battled outraged residents and a handful of masked insurgents.

From dawn to afternoon, the pop of gunfire and the boom of explosives reverberated across Mogadishu, Somalia's reliably chaotic capital.

But it is difficult to tell how many people here actually support the growing insurgency against Somalia's transitional government and the Ethiopian troops backing it. On Wednesday, a group of masked men stood on the steps of a Mogadishu mosque and proclaimed themselves to be Somalia's new freedom fighters. They were met by jeers.(More...)

Somali and Ethiopia forces skirmish with Islamic militiamen

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Somali and Ethiopian forces skirmished with Islamic militiamen in southern Somalia early today, setting off a brush fire, residents said by two-way radio.

The fighting comes after Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his forces were carrying out mop-up operations against Islamic militants in the extreme southern corner of Somalia and that he expected to withdraw his troops within a few weeks.

The remote, forested area has few residents and high frequency radio is the only reliable form of communications.

"We are hearing bombardment in Ras Kamboni. It started around 6 a.m. and the strike is now continuing," one resident said, asking not to be named for fear of retribution. "We can't see planes, but we can hear heavy explosions."

Mosa Aden Hersi, who lives 15 miles from Ras Kamboni, said earlier fighting in the area had triggered a brush fire. At least 35 civilians were killed along with fighters during the battle.(More...)

U.N. backs deployment of troops to Somalia

UNITED NATIONS - The U.N. Security Council said it backs the speedy deployment of African troops to Somalia and strongly urges a dialogue among all political players, in addition to the delivery of humanitarian aid to the country.

Russia's U.N. Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, the current council president, told reporters after a closed-door meeting Wednesday that members regard Somalia as "a high priority matter" and are concerned about instability, security, and the humanitarian situation.

"They expressed their support for the plan to send a humanitarian assessment mission to the border between Somalia and Kenya and spoke of the importance of adequate humanitarian support for Somalia," he said. "They strongly supported inclusive political dialogue among various political forces in Somalia. They favor speedy deployment of IGASOM," a new force to be set up by the African Union and a seven-nation regional group.

Ibrahim Gambari , the undersecretary-general for political affairs, told reporters after briefing the council that Nigeria, South Africa and Malawi "are said to be considering sending troops" to Somalia. "We hope that these countries will actually go ahead and commit."(More...)

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