Air strikes kill wanted militant: Somali official

Amid news of fresh U.S. air strikes, a Somali government official on Wednesday said a suspected al-Qaeda militant wanted for bombing American embassies was dead.

Amid news of fresh U.S. air strikes, a Somali government official on Wednesday said a suspected al-Qaeda militant wanted for bombing American embassiesnine years ago was killed in earlier strikes.

An FBI most wanted poster of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was displayed on the FBI's website on March 21, 2003. ((Associated Press))
"I have received a report from the American side chronicling the targets and list of damage," Abdirizak Hassan, the Somali president's chief of staff, told the Associated Press.

"One of the items they were claiming was that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is dead."

U.S. officials have not confirmed the report.

Washington accused Mohammed of planning attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 that killed 225 people.

The Somali spokesperson said air strikes would likely continue.

"I know it happened yesterday, it will happen today and it will happen tomorrow," said Hassan.

Meanwhile, Somalia's deputy prime minister,Hussein Aided, said American troops were needed on the ground to root extremists from his troubled country, and he expected the troops soon.

Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf, left, shown with former president Abdi Kasim, right, has said the U.S. 'has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies.' ((Mohamed Abdulle Hassan Siidi/Associated Press))
His comments come as Reuters news agency and Somali government officials reported at least four new U.S. air strikes on southern Somalia. The attacks reportedly happened near Ras Kamboni on Badmadow Island, an area close to the Kenyan border.

Islamist rebels, who until late December controlled the Somali capital Mogadishu, are believed to be hiding out in the region. The militia fled to the border area after Somali government troops, backed by Ethiopia, drove them out of the capital.

Pentagon spokesperson Bryan Whitman on Tuesday confirmed one U.S. air strike was conducted Monday by an AC-130 gunship in southern Somalia.

Casualty reportsvary

Reports from the country suggest a number of American air strikes took place Monday and Tuesday, killing an unknown number of people.

In Washington, an intelligence official said the U.S. killed five to 10 people in an attack on an al-Qaeda target in southern Somalia, but did not say who was killed. The official spoke to the Associated Presson condition of anonymity because of the operation's sensitivity.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said Wednesday that eight terror suspects had been killed in the U.S. air strike, and he was awaiting results of DNA testing to determine their identities.

He said he believed they were high-ranking members of the Somali Islamic movement.

Zenawiadded he was not aware of any American special forces in Somalia, but that the U.S. was providing intelligence.

In three days of attacks near Afmadow, close to the Kenyan border, 64 civilians had been killed and 100 injured, said elder Haji Farah Qorshel. There was no independent confirmation of his claim.

The U.S. military said Tuesday that the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived off Somalia's coast and launched intelligence-gathering missions over Somalia. Three other U.S. warships were conducting anti-terror operations.

Suspected bomb planner once in custody

Mohammed, 32, is also suspected of planning the car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel,20kilometres north of Mombassa. The airliner wasn't hit.

Washington believes he has been in Somalia since 2002 under the protection of Islamic extremists. The CIA had offered rewards to Somali warlords for his capture.

Kenyan police briefly detained Mohammed for credit card fraud, but they didn't realize he was a terror suspect and he was released.

With files from the Associated Press