- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

Warlords from Somalia and terrorists linked to the al Qaeda network have been spotted moving from the failed African state to nearby nations, as U.S. intelligence agencies continue to monitor terrorist activities outside Afghanistan.
A group of Somalian Muslim guerrillas was spotted recently as they fled to Yemen, U.S. officials told The Washington Times.
The Somalian fighters' movement comes amid growing reports that the United States is considering military operations against al Qaeda terrorists in Somalia.
The officials said the Somalians appear to be preparing to use Yemen, located at the southern end of the Arabian peninsula, as a staging area for guerrilla attacks if U.S. forces start military operations against al Qaeda terrorists in Somalia.
In other developments, a U.S. KC-130 refueling aircraft crashed yesterday in Pakistan, killing all seven U.S. Marines on board, the Pentagon said. The plane crashed near the town of Shamsi in southwestern Pakistan as it approached a remote airport being used by U.S. forces.
The Pentagon said the cause of the crash is under investigation and there were no early signs that it was shot down by hostile fire.
Bombing raids were carried out yesterday for a fifth day against a large cave complex in eastern Afghanistan where al Qaeda and Taliban forces have been trying to regroup. U.S. warplanes attacked the complex near Zhawar Kili, destroying several buildings, defense officials said.
Regarding Somalia, U.S. and allied reconnaissance aircraft have stepped up monitoring flights over the East African nation over the past two weeks to help pinpoint what U.S. officials said were several terrorist training bases in Somalia.
The aircraft are said to be helping Pentagon planners to target facilities in areas of southern, northern and coastal Somalia.
President Bush said in a speech last night that the war on terrorism is not limited to Afghanistan.
"But wherever terror exists, this great nation will hunt it down," Mr. Bush said.
Asked about al Qaeda training activities in Somalia, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld told reporters last week that terrorists "go in and out" of the country.
"We know there have been training camps there and that they have been active over the years and that they, like most of them, go inactive when people get attentive to them," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday that the location of future al Qaeda terrorists outside of Afghanistan "is the subject of a lot of analysis right now."
The military is watching intelligence indicators and talking with other governments to help track al Qaeda movements outside Afghanistan. "It's too early to say where that might be," Gen. Myers said.
The Joint Chiefs chairman said the government of Yemen "is taking measures to combat terrorism, and I'll just leave it at that."
Al Qaeda terrorists have been based in Yemen in the past and carried out the October 2001 attack on the destroyer USS Cole that killed 17 sailors.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Tuesday that Somalia is one of the places "where these al Qaeda cells might find haven."
"It's a place we're watching very, very carefully not just because it's a weak, broken state," Mr. Powell said in an interview with The Washington Times. "That's not a reason to go there. It's because terrorist activity might find some fertile ground there, and we don't want that to happen."
U.S. officials said earlier that intelligence reports last week stated that some 100 al Qaeda terrorists had been spotted recently in Somalia. The terrorists were part of an Islamic rebel group known as Al-Ittihad Al-Islam, said officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The Mogadishu-based group is linked to Somalian warlord Hussein Mohammed Aideed and al Qaeda.
In November, the Bush administration took steps to shut down a Somalia-based banking system in Washington that was identified as a source of funding to international terrorists.
Recent reconnaissance flights over Somalia have included missions by U.S. P-3 maritime patrol planes, along with similar missions by British Nimrod and French Atlantique aircraft, the officials said.
U.S. military officials said plans for any military operation in Somalia would be mindful of the incident in 1993 when 18 U.S. Army Rangers were killed during a raid in Mogadishu as they sought to arrest a Somalian warlord.
A reported stronghold of the Al-Ittihad Al-Islam group is the border town of El Wak, Kenya, where fighters from the group have fled, according to Mohammed Omar, the district commissioner there.
Asked about the group's presence, town residents typically responded, "Yes, Al-Ittihad were here, but they left about two years ago." Mr. Omar told the London Daily Telegraph yesterday, "The tribes came together and fought them in a big battle."
Residents of the town said they feared strikes by U.S. bombers, the newspaper stated, noting that the region is the main operating based for Al-Ittihad, which has ties to al Qaeda.
The newspaper quoted a Western security source as saying a training camp was spotted in El Wak several years ago, although that camp had been dismantled since then.
The Somali National Front, a group that has fought Al-Ittihad in the past, claims that the group carried out an attack in March on a town 150 miles from El Wak that was led by Arab members of al Qaeda.
Hussein Mohammed Dires, the Somali National Front police chief, told the Telegraph that he knows the exact locations of Al-Ittihad members. He said Oskurun, Arma, Dar es Salaam and its new headquarters, Kudar, north of the port of Kismayo, are the main areas.
The police chief said Al-Ittihad members have gone underground since the September 11 attacks. "The question the Americans need to ask is not where they are, but how they work. They need to use us to do the job," Mr. Dires said.
A U.S. military team was recently in Somalia gathering intelligence from militia leaders and obtained some data on suspected terrorists and al Qaeda members, U.S. officials said.
The Pentagon also appears to be opening a second "boots on the ground" in the war on terrorism.
Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, the chief of the Philippines armed forces, said he wants U.S. military advisers on the front lines in the battle against the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf.
In the Philippines, the Associated Press quoted officials as saying 100 U.S. personnel are expected to arrive to help troops fighting Abu Sayyaf, a terrorist group on the southern island of Basilan that wants an independent Muslim state.
"Going to the front line does not necessarily mean that they will be the ones going in direct contact with the enemy," Gen. Villanueva said.
The Pentagon has acknowledged sending military advisers to the Philippines, but declines to discuss specific operations.

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