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U.S. Working With Countries in Horn of Africa to Go After al Qaeda

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 24, 2007 – The United States will track down al Qaeda operatives wherever they try to find safe haven, including in the Horn of Africa, a senior Defense Department official said today.

“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,” Bryan Whitman, deputy assistant defense secretary for media relations, told reporters today.

He did not, however, confirm media reports that the United States this week carried out an air strike on an al Qaeda target in Somalia, on Africa’s eastern coast.

“The nature of some of our operations are such that I just won’t be able to provide you much information (on every occasion),” he said.

A strike by a U.S. AC-130 gunship on Jan. 7 targeted a senior terrorist leader in Somalia. Officials have not yet released information on that mission’s success.

A senior defense official, speaking on background, stressed that some operations are better left unpublicized. “There are operations that we conduct that are of the nature that don’t lend themselves to public discourse,” the official said. “But I think we all understand that the success of some of these operations is predicated on our ability to conduct them in the ways in which we have to.”

The official noted that many military operations are never discussed in public. “The very nature of our special operations, for example, when we do special operations, are not something that lend themselves to being able to be discussed in a public kind of way, because their success is predicated on their ability to be carried out in a fashion that is not on the front page of every newspaper,” he said.

The official also stressed that operations in the Horn of Africa are conducted in cooperation with governments in the region. “We are working very closely with countries in the region because of the fact that there are known terrorists that are seeking to try to take harbor, to plan, and to conduct operations in that region,” he said.

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