Witnesses say foreign soldiers on board four helicopters staged a raid near a village in rebel-controlled southern Somalia, killing at least two people inside a vehicle believed to have been carrying Islamist insurgents.
REUTERS - Suspected foreign commandos on board two helicopters killed at least two people when they attacked a car thought to be carrying Islamist insurgents in southern Somalia, witnesses said on Monday.
Residents said the incident took place near Roobow village in Barawe District, some 250 km (155 miles) south of Mogadishu, and that a senior rebel commander might be among the dead.
Local man Bashir Abdi told Reuters soldiers in two helicopters opened fire on a car passing near their village.
"The troops appeared to have French flags on the shoulders of their uniforms," Abdi said by telephone from the scene. He said two people were killed and others taken by the soldiers.
French defence ministry spokesman Christophe Prazuck denied French soldiers had been involved.
"We don't have any military presence in that region ... there are no forces in that territory," Prazuck said in Paris.
French forces have launched commando raids in Somalia in the past to rescue French nationals held by rebels and pirates.
Another witness, Abdulkadir Muse, said al Shabaab insurgents exchanged fire with the commandos. He said all four people in the car were killed and their bodies taken by the foreigners.
The four people in the car were not thought to have been Somalis, Muse added, but he could provide no proof.
Western security agencies say the failed Horn of Africa state has become a safe haven for militants, including foreign jihadists, who use it to plot attacks in the region and beyond.
Last month, one of two French security advisers kidnapped by Somali insurgents in July managed to escape from his captors and fled to the presidential palace in Mogadishu.
Somalia's fragile U.N.-backed government faces a stubborn insurgency mounted by al Shabaab and others. Washington accuses al Shabaab of being al Qaeda's proxy in the lawless country.
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's administration controls only small parts of the impoverished nation's drought-ridden region and a few districts of the bullet-scarred coastal capital.
Violence has killed more than 18,000 Somalis since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes.
That has triggered one of the world's worst aid emergencies, with the number of people needing help leaping 17.5 percent in a year to 3.76 million or half the population.
Date created : 2009-09-14