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US takes hunt for Al Qaeda to Somalia

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The three men are believed to be behind the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, when more than 250 people were killed by two coordinated truck blasts.

Mr. Sudani is listed on Washington terror watch lists as Al Qaeda's point man in East Africa. Mr. Mohammed, from the Comoros archipelago in the Indian Ocean, is suspected of orchestrating a 2002 suicide attack on an Israeli-owned Kenyan hotel.

The failed attempt to shoot down a tourist airliner as it took off from Mombasa airport on Kenya's coast in 2002, heading for Tel Aviv, also bears Mohammed's signature, intelligence sources have said.

"If the attacks have managed to kill or capture some of the top East Africa people in Al Qaeda then it vindicates the actions of the US and Ethiopia, and it shows the ICU has been deceiving everyone," says Matt Bryden, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group in Nairobi.

"But if they haven't, then it compounds what has in the past been a strategy of errors, and makes the US look like it's been sold a lemon by [Somalia's] transitional federal government."

The European Union issued a statement criticizing the attack. Ethiopia, which has begun unprecedented military coordination with US troops in recent months, has issued no statement about the US air attacks, but Ethiopian officials say that the US and Ethiopia have completely different agendas in Somalia.

"The Ethiopian mission was not to fight terrorism or Al Qaeda per se, it was to defend the territory of Ethiopia from the penetration of groups based in Somalia," says Mohammad Dirir, minister for tourism in the Ethiopian government. "We targeted the Islamic Courts, and the Americans have their agenda, the war on terrorism."

"In Somalia, because of the failed state, it became a safe haven for all sorts of terrorist groups, including Al Qaeda," says Mr. Dirir. "The lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, Mr. Ayman Zawahiri, made statements calling on Muslims to come fight in Somalia. There are some Arab countries who are not allowing terror activities on their own territory, but don't mind if it is exported to the Horn of Africa."

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