Somali rebels defiant after U.S. attack

"We are warning the enemies of God that we will stay on the same path like the departed ... the path of true jihad." said Mukhtar Ali Robow.

Somali rebels defiant after U.S. attack

Somalia's Islamist fighters vowed to fight on under new leadership on Friday after U.S. warplanes killed an insurgent said to be al Qaeda's commander in the Horn of Africa country.

Aden Hashi Ayro, who led al Shabaab militants blamed for attacks on government troops and their Ethiopian allies, was killed on Thursday in the latest of a string of U.S. air strikes on fighters in the last year.

Security and intelligence sources say Ayro, in hiding since a U.S. air strike in January 2007, trained in Afghanistan in the late 1990s. He was one of six members or associates of al Qaeda thought by the United States to be in Somalia.

The Western-backed Somali government is trying to stem a uprising that has been gaining ground, but the rebels said the death of Ayro would not deter them.

"Even if Ayro has been martyred, his beliefs live on. The men who he trained and consulted are still around," Shabaab spokesman Mukhtar Ali Robow told local broadcaster Shabelle.

"We are warning the enemies of God that we will stay on the same path like the departed ... the path of true jihad."

The pre-dawn U.S. strike on the small central town of Dusamareb flattened a stone house where Ayro had been staying and killed 30 other people, including Shabaab militiamen and civilians, witnesses said.

The U.S. military said it had carried out a strike in Somalia against a "known al Qaeda target" but would give no other details.

Shabaab is the armed wing of the Somalia Islamic Courts Council that took over most of southern Somalia for six months in 2006, until government troops backed by Ethiopian forces routed it in a two-week war.

Western security officials have long seen Somalia as a haven for fighters. Warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, casting the country into chaos.

Some analysts feared Ayro's killing at the hands of the Americans would trigger reprisal attacks against U.S. interests and U.S. citizens in the region.

But one diplomatic source, who declined to be named, said the Shabaab was unlikely to be able to act alone.

"The threat to U.S. interests in the region is possible. It's always been there, but it would take others with greater capability than Shabaab to put that into operation," he said.

Many Somalis were afraid Ayro's killing would inflame anti-foreign sentiment in their country and swell the number of Shabaab recruits.

"The death of Aden Ayro will undoubtedly double the efforts of their fighting against the government, Ethiopians and the Westerners," a Dusamareb shopkeeper, Farhan Aden, told Reuters.

"More people who lost their brothers in the American air bombing will join the struggle."

Reuters
Last Mod: 03 Mayıs 2008, 12:55
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