Ethiopian helicopters bomb wrong country

January 3rd, 2007 Print Print Email Email

NAIROBI (AFP) Jan 2:. Ethiopian helicopters pursuing Somali Islamists missed their target and bombed a Kenyan border post, prompting Kenyan fighter planes to rush to the area, officials said.

A top Kenyan police official, who requested to remain unnamed, told AFP that the four helicopters targeted the Somali town of Dhobley, about three kilometres (two miles) from the frontier line, only to end up dropping bombs on Kenya’s Har Har border post.

“At about 4:30 pm (1330 GMT), the four helicopters wanted to bomb Dhobley, but it appears they missed target and dropped three bombs in Har Har, which is on our side of the (Kenyan) border,” said the official.

“The helicopters then returned and dropped three other bombs,” he added. “We have just sent our planes there.”

There was no immediate mention of the casualties and damage on the grounds hit.

The bombing came hours after Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki held talks with the national security committee at the port city of Mombasa.

The country has reinforced ground and aerial patrols along its 700 kilometre (435 mile) border with Somalia to prevent the Islamists, who are being pursued by a combined Ethiopian-Somali force, from sneaking into the country.

Also, Kibaki held talks with his Somali counterpart Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed and asked him to resume talks with the Islamists, who lost control of their last stronghold early Monday but have vowed to carry out guerrilla campaigns against rival troops.

In talks to Yusuf, Kibaki “appealed to the parties involved to put aside their differences and embrace dialogue as a way of restoring peace and stability in the war-torn country,” his office said in a statement.

The Somali talks collapsed early in November weeks before fighting started.

Kibaki said “Kenya would not be used as a refuge for those who seek to destablise other governments in the region,” noting that Kenya had already beefed up patrols along the common border with Somalia, his office said in the statement.

The United Nations said thousands of refugees fleeing recent fighting were stranded at Dhobley and Kenyan police said they would not allow them in for security reasons.

“Around 4,000 Somalis are said to be in Dhobley along the Kenya-Somalia border, waiting, not yet able to cross,” UN Office for Cordination for Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said in a statement released here.

“We will never allow them to cross over,” a top police commander in northeastern Kenya told AFP, adding: “If we allow them they will bring in security problems.”

Police said they are probing eight suspected Islamist fighters who tried to infiltrate into the country after the Islamists were vanquished after nearly two weeks of artillery duels.

The Somali government and their Ethiopian backers have vowed to pursue the Islamists, who are accused of, but have vehemently denied, links with Al-Qaeda.

Kenya already hosts at least 160,000 refugees who fled fighting in more than 15 years of unrest in Somalia.

Ethiopia deployed thousands of troops, tanks and planes to prop up the weak Somali government, and after it claimed the Islamists had threatend its state security by infiltrating its border.

Official casualty figures from the fighting remain unclear but Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi has claimed that his forces killed up to 3,000 Islamist fighters. The Islamists said they killed hundreds.

Somalia disintegrated into lawlessness after the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. It was carved up among clan warlords, some of whom now back the government.

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