United States forces have launched a strike against suspected Al Qaeda members in Somalia, a senior U.S. official tells FOX News.
The attack by the Air Force AC-130 gunship, capable of firing thousands of rounds per second, left casualties on the ground, but it is not clear if any are suspected terrorists, the official said.
The U.S. could be taking advantage of terrorists that have flown their hideout, as Al Qaeda operatives taking cover in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu were likely chased out when Ethiopian forces cleared out Islamists who had taken power there.
The move marks the first time the U.S. has mounted a mission in Somalia since forces pulled out in 1994, two years after entering on a mission to feed starving people there.
Officials have long suspected those involved in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa, that killed more than 200, have taken refuge in Somalia. Because of that, the U.S. has shared intelligence with allies such as Kenya and Ethiopia and this fresh attack could be part of an long, ongoing anti-terror operation.
The Bush administration has grown increasingly concerned about the threat of terrorism in Africa, so much so that the Defense Department is planning to create a new regional command specifically to focus on Africa.
Over the past decade, the U.S. military has been working to train African armies and has been particularly concerned about lawless states such as Somalia and other failed states where Al Qaeda elements and other terrorist groups have sought haven.
If necessary, the U.S.S. Eisenhower aircraft carrier is also in the region, within striking distance and loaded with firepower, and could be called into action.