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Somali Capital Tense Following Air Strikes, Presidential Statement


Tensions are running high in Somalia's capital Wednesday following a U.S. air strike on al-Qaida hideouts in the south and a statement by the interim president that ousted Islamist leaders should be punished. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

There were reports of gunfire and a grenade attack in the Mogadishu neighborhoods of Arafat and K4 Wednesday.

There was also a rocket attack late Tuesday on a facility housing Ethiopian troops that have been backing the Somali government.

The attacks follow a statement interim President Abdullahi Yusuf made Tuesday saying that his government would not negotiate with the leadership of the Islamic Courts Union. Yusuf said he also supported the U.S. air strikes against terror targets in southern Somalia.

President Yusuf says he and his colleagues will never forgive the leaders of the Islamic Courts Union because they did bad things to Somalis, and therefore they must be punished.

He says there will be no dialogue with the Islamic Courts Union, because the Courts have collapsed.

A source in Mogadishu tells VOA many Somalis are angry at President Yusuf for supporting the air strikes and for saying that his government will not hold talks with the Islamists.

Most Somalis are sensitive about foreign intervention in their country, whether it be from Ethiopian troops or U.S. air raids.

Many in the capital also support the Islamic Courts Union, saying that the Islamists brought law and order into an otherwise chaotic capita.

The U.S. military Tuesday confirmed conducting an air strike against suspected al-Qaida leaders in southern Somalia.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters Tuesday that an AC-130 gunship attacked what he called the region's principal al-Qaida leaders on Sunday. Media reports said the attack occurred Monday.

Whitman said the attack was based on what he called "credible intelligence." There has been no official confirmation that any of the intended targets were hit, but a government source in Somalia says one leading terror suspect was killed. Somali officials say they are trying to verify the report.

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