Airstrikes, possibly by U.S. planes, caused explosions in a remote area in southern Somalia, officials said Monday. There was no immediate information on casualties.
Buale town chairman Ibrahim Noleye said planes were heard flying nearby Sunday night, followed by two loud explosions that shook the ground. Buale is 255 miles southwest of the capital, Mogadishu.
A U.S. military official said there was no information about U.S. planes activities in Somalia.
Noleye said he had contacted officials in nearby villages, who told him by two-way radio that the planes had hit an area between Buale and another town called Sakow.
He could not say who launched the airstrike Sunday night. But only U.S. aircraft have launched such strikes in Somalia in recent months. The Somali government does not have an air force. Ethiopian troops based in Somalia have not been reported to conduct airstrikes.
U.S. says it has no information
Navy Commander Lydia Robertson, spokeswoman for the Navy Central Command in Bahrain, said she had no information about U.S. military plane activity in Somalia.
“We saw a big light which followed hours of the sounds of planes, and then we heard two big explosions between Buale, where we are, and Sakow,” Noleye told The Associated Press by telephone.
The area is sparsely populated and used primarily for grazing livestock such as camel and goats.
“We contacted some of our people on the ground and they confirmed that it was a(n) (air)strike,” Noleye said, adding that soon afterward they lost radio contact.
Ali Bashi Ahmed, chairman of Fanole Human Rights Organization, also said he heard loud explosions, but did not know where they had occurred. Ahmed spoke by telephone from the port town of Kismayo, southwest of Buale.
Duale Ganane, a colonel and a commander of a local militia, said, “we saw a light just a second before three huge explosions in the jungle north of Buale.”
Aid worker Hassan Mohamed, who asked that his agency not be identified, said: “the light was like a star falling to earth.”
Former military officer Muhidiin Nur Salah said, “I think it was an unknown device because in my view point no one can see a missile coming.”
Earlier U.S. airstrike
American officials confirmed a U.S. airstrike on May 1 that killed Aden Hashi Ayro, the head of the military wing of Somalia’s Islamists, along with 24 other people. Members of the military wing called al-Shabab, meaning “The Youth,” have vowed to avenge his death.
Somalia has been in a state of anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. In December 2006, neighboring Ethiopia sent troops to prop up a U.N.-backed government that has been unable to assert much authority and is facing an insurgency in the capital, Mogadishu.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes in a burgeoning humanitarian crisis.