Europe Condems US Somali Attacks

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The European Commission on Tuesday criticised the reported United States airstrike against a suspected al-Qaeda cell in southern Somalia, calling it counterproductive to peace efforts for the war-torn African country.

While there was a risk of foreign extremists operating from Somalia, “any incident of that kind is not helpful in the long-term,� a commission spokesman told reporters. The Somali interim government confirmed earlier Tuesday that at least 30 people had been killed in a US airstrike against a suspected al-Qaeda cell in southern Somalia.

The commission spokesman said that Somalia's fundamental problem was a lack of state organization. “Only a political solution can bring serious chances for lasting peace and stability,� the Commission spokesman said. He also called for an “inclusive political process� with the moderate members of the Islamic courts in Somalia.

Ethiopian troops must be withdrawn as quickly as possible and an international force to monitor the situation in Somalia be deployed, the spokesman stressed. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the al-Qaeda leader believed to be responsible for the 1998 attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, was among those killed, US sources said. 

The US had expressed concern that Somalia could become a staging ground for terrorists and said last week said it had stationed forces off the coast of Somalia and was working with other countries in the region to ensure that Islamists linked to terrorism are not able to flee the country.

The EU last week said that a possible international peacekeeping force in Somalia should be an African-led operation, excluding a possible participation of European troops.

Ethiopia, which backs Somalia's weak transitional government, launched an offensive on December 24 against the Islamist movement which has controlled much of the country's south since June 2006.

Somalia's interim government wants Ethiopian troops to stay until a peacekeeping force is deployed. But analysts say the continued presence of foreign troops could further weaken the regime.
Ethiopia has said it could not afford to keep its troops in neighbouring Somalia much longer and called for the quick deployment of international peacekeepers.

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