Mogadishu, Jan 09: A US attack plane killed many people with barrages of gunfire in a remote Somali village occupied by Islamists thought to be hiding at least one al Qaeda suspect, a Somali government source said on Tuesday.

In the first known direct U.S. military intervention in Somalia since a failed peacekeeping mission that ended in 1994, an AC-130 plane rained gunfire on the desolate southern village of Hayo near the Kenyan border late on Monday.

"I understand there are so many dead bodies and animals in the village," the senior source told news agencies.

The US Navy also confirmed it had moved the aircraft carrier Eisenhower to the Somali coast -- Africa's longest -- to beef up a naval cordon it had already put there as the Islamists sought refuge in the remote southern tip.

"They are, with other ships, making sure that terrorists are not able to use the sea as a means of transport," said Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the US Fifth Fleet, which is based in the Gulf state of Bahrain.

U.S. intelligence believes Abu Talha al-Sudani, identified in grand jury testimony against Osama bin Laden as an explosives expert from Sudan, is the leader of east Africa's al Qaeda cell and has been in and out of Somalia for over a decade.

"The Americans are saying an al Qaeda member heading operations in east Africa is among the Islamists there," the source said. He did not know the man's name or whether he died.

US, Ethiopian and Kenyan intelligence officials say some Islamists have provided shelter to a handful of al Qaeda members, including suspects in the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and a 2002 hotel bombing on the Kenyan coast.


Besides al-Sudani, Washington has named Comorian Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan among the al Qaeda members in Somalia.

The Washington Post, quoting unnamed military sources, said al-Sudani was one target of the raid.

Bureau Report