U.S. Warplanes Fly Missions Over Somalia - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

01/09/08 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates

U.S. Warplanes Fly Missions Over Somalia

In a further escalation of American involvement in Somalia, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived off the war-ravaged country's coast and its aircraft have begun flying intelligence-gathering missions over Somalia, the military said Tuesday.

The U.S. Central Command reassigned the aircraft carrier to Somalia last week from its mission supporting NATO-led forces in Afghanistan, said U.S. Navy spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown in Bahrain, where the Navy's Fifth Fleet is based.

The announcement comes a day after at least one U.S. Special Forces AC-130 gunship carried out a strike against several suspected members of al-Qaida in Somalia. Brown said the Navy had no supporting role in the attack.

The carrier joins three other U.S. warships -- two guided-missile cruisers and an amphibious landing ship -- already conducting anti-terror operations off the Somali coast.

Brown said he did not know how long the Eisenhower's redeployment would last. "We'll be there as long as required," he told The Associated Press.

Soldiers loyal to Somalia's U.N.-backed government and Ethiopia's military late last month drove out a radical Islamic group that had been in control of the country for six months.

The U.S. military dispatched the Eisenhower from its battle station in the Arabian Sea to the Indian Ocean coastal waters of Somalia "due to rapidly developing events in Somalia," the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet announced in a statement.

Brown said the guided missile cruisers USS Bunker Hill and USS Anzio and the amphibious landing ship USS Ashland were already patrolling the Somali coast in search of al-Qaida members thought to be fleeing Somalia in the wake of Ethiopia's December invasion.

Navy crews aboard the Bunker Hill, Anzio and Ashland have been boarding and searching commercial ships off the Somali coast, Brown said. No terror suspects have been found aboard any of the ships, he said.

"That's a sign that what we're doing is working," Brown said. "We're trying to deter the terrorists from using the sea. If we haven't detained anyone, that shows us that it's working."

The Eisenhower's complement of F/A-18 Hornet and Superhornet fighter-bombers, EA-6B Prowler electronic warfare aircraft and E-2C Hawkeye airborne command-and-control craft had been operating over Afghanistan, Brown said. The Eisenhower also carries H-60 helicopters.


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