The targets included the senior al Qaeda leader in East Africa and an al Qaeda operative wanted for his involvement in the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in Africa, Martin reports. Those terror attacks killed more than 200 people.
The AC-130 gunship is capable of firing thousands of rounds per second, and sources say a lot of bodies were seen on the ground after the strike, but there is as yet, no confirmation of the identities…
Once they started moving, the al Qaeda operatives became easier to track, and the U.S. military started preparing for an air strike, using unmanned aerial drones to keep them under surveillance and moving the aircraft carrier Eisenhower out of the Persian Gulf toward Somalia. But when the order was given, the mission was assigned to the AC-130 gunship operated by the U.S. Special Operations command.
If the attack got the operatives it was aimed at, reports Martin, it would deal a major blow to al Qaeda in East Africa.
Update: If we got the people we’re hoping we got, you’ll see one or more of these names in the news very shortly.
America is worried about four people. To start, the deputy commander of the union’s military wing, Aiden Hashi Ayro, is said by American intelligence and a recent report by the International Crisis Group to have been trained in Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan before September 11, 2001. After the attacks, he returned to Afghanistan to join the fight against the Americans.
Mr. Ayro’s boss and commander of the union’s military, Hassan Dahir Aweys, was placed on the State Department’s list of international terrorists in November 2001 and named in a presidential executive order the same month on international terrorism. American counterterrorism officials have long said Mr. Aweys was a key source of coordination for the 1998 Al Qaeda attacks on America’s embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
Also of interest for America are Fazil Abdullah Mohammad, or Harun, and Abu Tala al Sudani, two alleged terrorists who helped plot the 1998 bombings and are now key leaders in the courts union.
Update: Here’s the State Department webpage about the embassy bombings. It notes that Clinton was “deeply troubled” by the news.
Update: The USS Eisenhower has been sent to Somalia in case jets are needed for further strikes.
Update: Early indications are good.
[The strike] was based on joint military-CIA intelligence and on information provided by Ethiopian and Kenyan military forces operating in the border area…
Sources said last night that initial reports indicated the attack had been successful, although information was still scanty…
One target of the strike, sources said, was Abu Talha al-Sudani, a Sudanese who is married to a Somali woman and has lived in Somalia since 1993 — the year of the attack against U.S. troops that was chronicled in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.” In a 2001 U.S. court case against Osama bin Laden, Sudani was described by a leading witness as an explosives expert who was close to the al-Qaeda leader…
Others have identified Sudani as the financier for Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, believed responsible for the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. All are among the senior al-Qaeda operatives the Bush administration has charged were sheltered by Somalian Islamic fundamentalists controlling Mogadishu, the country’s capital. They are believed to have fled late last month when Ethiopian troops drove the fundamentalists out of the capital and toward the Kenyan border.