Airstrikes from US helicopter gunship on AQ in Somalia


(CBS/AP) A U.S. Air Force gunship has conducted a strike against suspected members of al Qaeda in Somalia, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports exclusively.

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, 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.

Get ’em boys! In other Somalia news:

Meanwhile, a jungle hideout used by Islamic militants that is believed to be an al Qaeda base was on the verge of falling to Ethiopian and Somali troops, the defense minister said Monday.

While a lawmaker had earlier told The Associated Press that the base was captured, Somalia’s Defense Minister Col. Barre “Hirale” Aden Shire said troops had yet to enter it and that limited skirmishes were still ongoing, though troops were poised to take the base.

Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and warplanes were involved in the two-day attack, a government military commander told the AP on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Hat tip: Mary Katharine Ham, guest blogging at Michelle Malkin’s.

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