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US Task Force Keeping Close Eye on Somalia - 2003-01-10

The U.S. military task force hunting terrorists in the Horn of Africa has taken no action so far, but is keeping a close eye on Somalia, as it collects intelligence on suspicious activities.

The commander of the special U.S. military anti-terrorist task force, established a month ago in the Horn of Africa, says there is a lot of suspicious activity in the area.

But Marine Major General John Sattler says that, while his team is collecting considerable intelligence information on terrorist activities, it has taken no military action, so far. "There's a number of areas we're looking very hard at," he said. "We have not yet hit that point of [saying] 'yeah, this is definitely what we thought it was,' and, therefore, we have not gone forward and actually conducted any attacks on any terrorist cells or training camps, etcetera."

General Sattler was speaking to reporters at the Pentagon via a telephone link-up from his command ship, the Mount Whitney, in the Gulf of Aden, off the coast of Djibouti.

He says patience is important, because U.S. forces and their coalition partners operating in the Horn have to be sure about their targets.

In the meantime, though, General Sattler says, he believes the presence of the Task Force is disrupting terrorist activities in the region. "We feel very confident that by virtue of breathing down their neck, looking at them through multiple intelligence sources and collecting on them through multiple sources, that we are, in fact, disrupting - keeping them off balance - until we can go to the next phase, which is defeat, i.e. bring to justice," he said.

General Sattler says he believes coalition activities have already thwarted one possible boat attack like the terrorist strikes on a U.S. destroyer and a French tanker. But he gives no details.

The Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa includes 400 headquarters staff, stationed aboard the USS Mount Whitney, plus some 900 troops located at a base in Djibouti. Those troops include Special Operations forces capable of clandestine anti-terrorist missions.

The area the Task Force is responsible for covers Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.

General Sattler says, while the entire region is of interest, one specific area his group has been focusing on is Somalia, and what he says are its porous borders.

Since arriving in the Horn, General Sattler visited Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Yemen, and plans trips to Kenya and Sudan. He says there are plans to include liaison officers from countries in the region on the Mount Whitney, to coordinate potential operations.