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Deadly U.S. airstrike in Somalia marks jihadist dangers
by Staff Writers
Mogadishu, Somalia (UPI) Jan 27, 2013

US forces launch missile strike against Shebab leader in Somalia
Washington (AFP) Jan 27, 2014 - The US military launched a missile strike in Somalia on Sunday targeting a suspected Shebab militant leader, defense officials said.

One of the officials said an unmanned drone launched the missile in the late evening hours, but declined to confirm the suspect's identity or whether the strike was successful.

The US government has "been tracking this guy for years," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

A second US official said the strike in the southeastern port town of Barawe "was against a senior Shebab commander."

"The US is assessing the results of the operation" to determine if the suspect was killed, the official added.

The US strike took place just a day after the Shebab, which are linked to Al-Qaeda, called for attacks against foreign forces after arch-enemy Ethiopia joined the African Union force battling the extremists.

Hardline Shebab insurgents control large parts of rural southern Somalia, and despite having been driven from a string of towns by the UN-backed mission known as AMISOM, guerrilla units stage regular deadly attacks in the capital Mogadishu.

The United States has sent a handful of military advisers to Somalia in recent months to help bolster an African Union force fighting extremist militants there.

The deployment marked the first stationing of US troops in the troubled country since 1993, when two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans were killed in a disastrous operation.

Top Shebab commanders, including insurgent supremo Ahmed Abdi Godane, met this week after Ethiopia formally joined AMISOM, Shebab spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage told AFP.

Ethiopian troops moved into Somalia in 2006 in a US-backed invasion, but pulled out three years later in the face of stiff opposition. They formally crossed back into Somalia in November 2011, where units have remained ever since.

Ethiopia had sent troops into its lawless neighbor in a US-backed invasion in 2006, but the move sparked a bloody uprising and the troops pulled out three years later after failing to restore order.

Talks to end Mozambique skirmishes resume
Maputo (AFP) Jan 27, 2014 - Mozambique's Frelimo-led government and the main opposition party, Renamo, resumed stalled talks on Monday, amid deepening military tensions between the two sides.

Meeting for the first time in three months, the former civil-war foes agreed on some rules for future talks, a small step forward, but a significant one amid continued violence.

Scores have died in skirmishes between Renamo militia and government forces since Renamo's leader, Afonso Dhlakama returned to a former civil war bush camp in October 2012.

He has vowed to return the country to war unless the government agree to discuss a list of demands, inlcuding the sharing of resource wealth.

A series of political talks aimed at ending the conflict broke down after government forces attacked Dhlakama's Gorongosa stronghold last October, sending him into hiding.

But on Monday the two sides returned to the negotiating table, agreeing to allow observers to take part in future talks.

"The question of the participation of third parties and the question of the participation of observers were agreed by the two sides," the deputy head of the government's negotiating team, Transport Minister, Gabriel Muthisse told state-run Radio Mozambique.

Renamo had called for foreign observers to be present.

"We have taken a step forward but... we wish to work towards agreeing on a code of conduct... and determining the people and entities who will take part in this process," Renamo's chief negotiator, Saimone Macuiane said.

A U.S. missiles strike that reportedly killed a senior commander of al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist group linked to al-Qaida, indicates the organization remains threat despite recent military setbacks.

The group, now totally controlled by hard-line jihadists after an internal power struggle, is striking out against Somalia's Western-backed transitional government and seems determined to take its 8-year-old conflict to East African countries that support Mogadishu.

Sunday's airstrike underlined U.S. concerns about al-Shabaab's ability to mount operations, including Kenya and Ethiopia, U.S. allies which have contributed substantial numbers of troops to the 18,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force, known as Amisom, which is vital to the survival of the Mogadishu government.

U.S. officials acknowledged the strike on the village of Hawai in the Lower Shabelle region of southern Somalia was aimed at killing a top al-Shabaab figure, but declined to identify the target.

However, Somalia sources said the strike killed Sahal Iskudhuq, a top-tier commander and a high-ranking official in al-Shabaab's highly secretive intelligence unit, the Amniyat, and was close to its overall leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane.

U.S. special forces have killed several al-Shabaab leaders in recent years and in October 2013 attempted to capture Abdulkadir Mohammed Abdulkadir, a Kenyan of Somali origin known as " Ikrima" in an abortive amphibious operation.

In October 2013, the U.S. displayed its concerns about al-Shabaab by secretly deploying a small unit of 5 to 10 advisers to Mogadishu to help the government coordinate operations against al-Shabaab.

They were the first U.S. military personnel based there since the infamous Black Hawk Down episode in 1993 in which 18 American troops were killed.

Iskudhuq's death would be a severe blow to the organization and to Godane, who declared al-Shabaab's allegiance to al-Qaida in 2011.

Senior al-Qaida operatives have served as al-Shabaab leaders in recent years, including Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, mastermind of the August 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam killed by Somali troops at a Mogadishu checkpoint in June 2011.

Kenya, Somalia's northern neighbor, which has been repeatedly targeted by al-Shabaab for aiding Mogadishu, claimed Jan. 9 it killed 30 militants, including three senior leaders, in an airstrike on the group's Birta Dhere camp in the Gedo region near the Ethiopian border.

Kenya has stepped up operations against al-Shabaab since Somali jihadists seized the upscale Westgate shopping mall in central Nairobi, Kenya's capital, in September 2013, their boldest strike outside Somalia since 2010 bombings in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people.

At least 67 people were killed in the Nairobi assault, including four al-Shabaab infiltrators. Nairobi was targeted because of the 4,000 troops it has deployed with Amisom and its crackdown on al-Shabaab sympathizers in Kenya's large Somali community, many of them refugees.

The Birta Dhere strike was launched on the basis of intelligence gathered by Kenya's military that al-Shabaab leaders, including Ahmed Abdi Godane, were meeting in the camp, Western intelligence officials said. If Godane was there, he apparently got away.

Godane, aka Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, seized control of al-Shabaab in June 2013 when he came out on top of a long-running power struggle with his main rival, the group's spiritual leader and elder statesman, Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys.

Godane, who trained in Afghanistan with al-Qaida, executed Ibrahim al-Afghani, one of the group's co-founders, who was close to Osama bin Laden. Aweys fled and was subsequently captured by government forces.

Godane favors transnational holy war. He has close links with al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, the veteran Egyptian Islamist who took over al-Qaida Central in northern Pakistan after bin Laden was assassinated by U.S. forces near Islamabad May 2, 2011.

Aweys, a cleric, espouses a narrower, more nationalist Somali agenda and opposes foreign intervention in Somalia, which has been torn by clan warfare since dictator Mohammed Said Barre was overthrown in 1991.

Despite the loss of most of al-Shabaab's urban strongholds, particularly the port of Kismayo, to Amison and African forces in 2011-12, the group still holds large swathes of central and southern Somalia.

"The apparent decision by Godane and fellow hard-liners to again take the fight beyond Somalia's borders looks like a bid to regain the initiative in the face of the recent setbacks and disagreements," observed British analyst Simon Tidsall.


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Talks to end Mozambique skirmishes resume
Maputo (AFP) Jan 27, 2014
Mozambique's Frelimo-led government and the main opposition party, Renamo, resumed stalled talks on Monday, amid deepening military tensions between the two sides. Meeting for the first time in three months, the former civil-war foes agreed on some rules for future talks, a small step forward, but a significant one amid continued violence. Scores have died in skirmishes between Renamo mi ... read more

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