Al Qaeda-inspired extremists known as the Shebab control the area and are believed to be holding a French agent kidnapped in July, but France denied local claims that its forces were involved in the raid."There was a military operation carried out by four foreign choppers in Erile village. A car was destroyed, we are also hearing that some of the vehicle's passengers were taken on the choppers," Abdinasir Mohamed Adan, an elder from the nearby village of Barawe, told AFP by phone.Several local witnesses gave the same information, adding that some of the passengers in the targeted vehicle were killed.A local Islamist commander who asked to remain anonymous claimed that the helicopters were French."We are getting information that French army gunships attacked a car, destroying it completely and taking some of the passengers. We are waiting for some more details," the Shebab official told AFP.
French military headquarters in Paris denied its forces were involved in the raid.
"There was no French operation," said admiral Christophe Prazuck, spokesman for the armed forces' general staff.The spokesman said the French forces present in the region were operating within the framework of the European Union anti-piracy force Atalanta and that "they did not intervene over Somali territory."The Shebab are believed to be holding the agent and are also suspected of involvement in the kidnapping on the Kenyan border of three humanitarian workers a few days later.
Some officials in the area where the strike took place Monday said several foreign fighters were among the passengers of the targeted vehicle.The Shebab have also provided shelter to several senior Al-Qaeda operatives wanted over deadly attacks on Israeli targets in Mombasa in 2002 and the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
Topping the US wanted list are Fazul Abdullah, a Comoran national who escaped a Kenyan raid last year and is believed to have strong ties with the Shebab.One of his presumed accomplices in the 2002 Mombasa attacks who is also believed to be hiding in Somalia is Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, a Kenyan citizen.Israel and the United States, whose top diplomats recently visited the region, have in recent years complained of the slow progress in efforts to hunt down key suspects in the 1998 and 2002 attacks.
He has been on the FBI's list of top suspects for years.
The claim followed earlier reports that foreign troops had attacked Islamist militants in southern Somalia. Profile: Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan
A second US official said US special forces carried out the attack early on Monday Washington time. The official said the operation had been "successful" and he believed Nabhan was dead.
The earlier reports said the troops wore uniforms with French insignia, and had attacked a vehicle carrying Islamists from the al-Shabab group. A French military spokesman denied his country's forces were involved. ..more..http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/8254957.stm