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U.S. Kills Suspected al-Qaida Leader in Somali Airstrikes

U.S. war planes killed the suspected head of al-Qaida in Somalia and as many as 30 other people Thursday in overnight airstrikes. The New York Times' East Africa bureau chief discusses the target and the operation.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The U.S. attack on a terrorist target in the desperately poor and hungry East African nation of Somalia. Margaret Warner is in charge. She starts with a report from New York Times East Africa bureau chief Jeffrey Gettleman. They talked by phone from neighboring Nairobi earlier this evening.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Jeff Gettleman, thanks for being with us. Tell us how this air strike actually happened. Where and how did the U.S. find this terrorist figure?

    JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, reporter, New York Times: Well, around 3 a.m. this morning, a Navy ship in the Indian Ocean fired at least four Tomahawk cruise missiles at a target in central Somalia. It was actually in the town of Dusamareb, which is a mid-sized town in the middle of Somalia of around 100,000 people.

    We later learned that the target of the strike was probably the most notorious and feared Islamic militant in Somalia. Aden Hashi Ayro is his name. And the U.S. had been carefully tracking him for more or less the last two years.

    And it seemed like there was a culmination of on-the-ground intelligence, satellite imagery and communication intercepts that led the U.S. to his precise location in a house in Dusamareb this morning.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Were there a lot of other people killed?

  • JEFFREY GETTLEMAN:

    We're trying to figure that out right now. The U.S. has launched several air strikes in the last year and a half, and often civilians are killed in the process.

    Some of their strikes have totally missed the terrorist suspect targets and only killed civilians. In this case, it looks like Mr. Ayro, his brother, and at least 10 of his top lieutenants were killed, along with probably a dozen civilians who lived in the same area.

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