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U.S. officials do not reveal if the missile hit a 'known al-Qaida terrorist,' wanted by the FBI.
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The U.S. Navy fired at least one missile into a southern Somali town before dawn Monday, targeting a terrorism suspect in this lawless African nation.
Residents and police in Dobley, a town about 4 miles from the Kenyan border, said at least eight people, including four children, were injured when a home was destroyed. The attack was confirmed by U.S. officials, who said only that the target was a "known al-Qaida terrorist."
The missile strike was aimed at Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan born in 1979 who is wanted by the FBI for questioning in the nearly simultaneous attacks in 2002 on a hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, and on an Israeli airliner taking off from there, said three American officials, who spoke to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the strike.
The U.S. military has staged several attacks on suspected extremists in Somalia over the past year amid fears the Horn of Africa country could become a haven for terrorists. U.S. warplanes staged at least two airstrikes in January 2007 in an attempt to kill suspected al-Qaida members, Pentagon officials have said.
"As we have repeatedly said, we will continue to pursue terrorist activities and their operations wherever we may find them," Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said in Washington.
Whitman declined to provide any details, including the target's identity, the fate of the targeted individual or reports of any other casualties.
An unidentified defense official told the Associated Press that the strike used one or more Tomahawk cruise missiles fired from a U.S. submarine off Somalia's coast. The official spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to discuss details.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe told reporters that "the action was to go after al-Qaida and al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists," suggesting it may have been designed to hit more than one person. Johndroe declined to provide any details.
A radical Islamic movement that ruled much of southern Somalia in 2006 took over Dobley last week, led by senior official Hassan Turki. He is on U.S. and U.N. lists of terrorism suspects for alleged ties to al-Qaida. His fate after the strike was not known.
People in Dobley said the sound of explosions shook them awake before dawn Monday. "When we came out we found our neighbor's house completely obliterated as if no house existed here," Fatuma Abdullahi said. "We are taking shelter under trees."
The Islamic movement, the Council of Islamic Courts, seized control of much of southern Somalia, including the capital, Mogadishu, in 2006. But in early 2007, troops loyal to the U.N.-backed interim Somali government and the allied Ethiopian army defeated the Islamic group. The Islamic council now appears to be re-emerging.
Information from the New York Times was used in this report.
[Last modified March 3, 2008, 22:54:33]