CBS/AP writes that “A U.S. Air Force gunship has conducted a strike against suspected members of al Qaeda in Somalia”:
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 [sic–Ed], 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.
The gunship flew from its base in Dijibouti down to the southern tip of Somalia, Martin reports, where the al Qaeda operatives had fled after being chased out of the capital of Mogadishu by Ethiopian troops backed by the United States.
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.
Another Update: Ed Morrissey adds:
The Ethiopians did us a big favor by dislodging the Islamists from Mogadishu. Once on the run, the US could bring all of its technological assets on line to track them, and the Air Force waited long enough for all of them to run into the trap. The Navy positioned the USS Eisenhower in the waters nearby Somalia just in case it finds even more targets to strike.
That hasn’t stopped the Ethiopians, either. Their forces have surrounded an al-Qaeda base and may have overrun it by the time you read this post. Between the three forces, including those loyal to the Somalian transitional government, AQ in Africa is about to take a huge blow, perhaps even a fatal defeat.
It may have taken us a long time, but we do not forget. Let’s hope that our attack took out these high-value targets and plenty of their followers to boot.
And John Stephenson is rounding up additional blogger reaction.