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New Air Strikes Reported in Somalia; US Refuses to Comment


Witnesses in southern Somalia report several new air strikes Wednesday aimed at suspected al-Qaida or Islamist militant targets.

Officials from Somalia's transitional government said the air strikes were carried out by the U.S. military. But U.S. officials have refused to comment.

The attacks took place around Ras Kamboni, an area near the Kenyan border where government and Ethiopian troops have been battling holdout Islamist fighters.

U.S. officials have confirmed only one American air strike in southern Somalia - an attack against a suspected al-Qaida hideout on Monday.

Two U.S. news agencies, CNN and the Associated Press, quote Somali officials as saying the attack killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who allegedly planned the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in East Africa. But the reports are still not confirmed.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told reporters Wednesday that the U.S. airstrike killed eight terror suspects. He said his troops have collected the bodies and that experts will try to identify them.

Monday's air strike was the first acknowledged U.S. military action in Somalia since 1994.

There were new gunbattles Wednesday in the capital, Mogadishu, where gunmen attacked an area housing Ethiopian and Somali government troops. Somali officials say at least one person was killed in the fighting.

Somalia's Islamist movement has vowed to launch a guerrilla war against the government and its Ethiopian backers. A joint Somali-Ethiopian offensive drove the Islamists from their strongholds across southern Somalia last month.

In New York, the United Nations Security Council was due to meet Wednesday to discuss the latest developments in Somalia.

Diplomats are trying to assemble a peacekeeping force for the war-torn Horn of Africa nation. Ethiopia, which provides the Somali government with much of its muscle, has said it will pull its troops from Somalia within the next few weeks.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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