US fails a fourth time to hit al-Qa'ida suspect in Somalia

A US missile strike in Somalia, aimed at a man described by the Pentagon as a "known al-Qa'ida terrorist", succeeded only in hurting six civilians and killing three cows and a calf, the IoS has learned.

At least one Tomahawk missile was believed to have been fired from a US submarine off the Somali coast on Monday. It hit a shack in the small town of Dobley, four miles from the Kenyan border. Dobley is one of several towns and villages in southern Somalia that are now under the administration of Islamists connected to the former Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which briefly controlled most of southern and central Somalia in 2006.

The attack was the fourth known strike by the US inside Somalia since it backed Ethiopia's invasion of the country in December 2006. All have been aimed at men Washington believes to be responsible for terrorist attacks in East Africa. None has been successful.

Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, the target of Monday's attack, is wanted in connection with the 1998 US embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, which killed at least 224 people.

He is also believed to be connected to the suicide bombing of a Mombasa hotel in 2002, which killed 13 people, and a failed attack on an Israeli airliner.

America's emphasis on the conflict in Somalia as a third front in the "war on terror" has perturbed aid workers, diplomats and analysts. The US backed an invasion by Ethiopia to oust the UIC and is resisting efforts by Somalia's new Prime Minister, Nur Adde, to make overtures to opposition groups that Washington insists are "terrorists".

The US is planning to designate al Shabbab, the main insurgent movement in Somalia, a terrorist group. Diplomats and analysts agree that the group has links with al-Qa'ida, but say the move would derail any hope of a negotiated solution.

Africa Unscrambled: Read Steve Bloomfield's blog at independent.co.uk/bloomfield

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