The United States will not rule out further strikes in Somalia, State Department sources told ABC News today, but the window of opportunity to hit suspected terrorists there is closing quickly.
Sources say don't rule out another U.S. attack before early next week, a sort of "last-ditch effort" to get these suspected terrorists before they disappear off the radar.
The U.S. has an "understanding," not a paper agreement, with the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government in Somalia, allowing the U.S. to conduct attacks on suspected terror targets within Somalia's borders.
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Officials say that another strike would likely resemble the previous two, a lone gunship launching the attack.
The first attack in January was on al Qaeda targets, but the attack this past Monday was on targets from the Islamic Courts Council. Sources say that Monday's attack was really directed at one individual but declined to identify who that was. In general, sources say the U.S. is only going after "a handful of individuals."Click Here for Full Blotter Coverage.
Yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said, "We have, for some time, been concerned about al Qaeda operating in that region, and that's why we're working with countries throughout that [area of responsibility] to identify track, seek capture and, if necessary, kill al Qaeda working, taking safe haven, operating in that region." It would appear that Whitman was not only referring to the Kenyans and Ethiopians, but to the new Somali government as well, which through this understanding has allowed the U.S. to conduct the raids over its territory.
While it's been commonly assumed the U.S. gunships have been flying out of the American base in Djibouti, in fact they've been very quietly flying out of Dire Dawa, Ethiopia, sources tell ABC News. The AC-130 gunships were flown to Ethiopia to be closer to the action in Somalia from their homebase at Balad in Northern Iraq. They've been there since the Islamic Councils were driven from power. Both strikes have been targets of opportunity, and any additional strikes would only occur if those opportunities arise again.
Sources also say that there are U.S. "advisors" on the ground. They aren't necessarily participating in these attacks but are there to "collect information."