(Asharq Al Awsat) – Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf has told Asharq Al Awsat by telephone that the US air raid on his country was justified as, “The Americans pursue Al Qaeda terrorists everywhere and (Monday’s raid) is really a part of that.” The AC-130 targeted the village of Hayo late on Monday and was the first direct form of US military intervention since the peacekeeping mission ended in 1994.
Many people died in the U.S. strike on a southern Somali village occupied by fleeing Islamists believed to be sheltering Al Qaeda suspects, Somali officials said on Tuesday. As part of the wider offensive including Ethiopian planes, the US strike apparently aimed at an Al Qaeda cell said to include suspects in bombings of U.S. embassies in east Africa and a hotel on the Kenyan coast.
“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 Somali President told Asharq Al Awsat from Mogadishu.
The US actions were met by criticism from others including new U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, the European Union, and former colonial power Italy. “The secretary-general is concerned about the new dimension this kind of action could introduce to the conflict and the possible escalation of hostilities that may result,” U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said.
Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema said Rome opposed “unilateral initiatives that could spark new tensions in an area that is already very destabilized”.
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 U.S. consent.