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US Carrier Returning To Persian Gulf Area After 3-Week Mission January 31, 2007

Posted by notapundit in Military News, US News, World News.
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WASHINGTON (AP)–The U.S. Navy has scaled back its presence off Somalia’s coast, withdrawing the USS Eisenhower aircraft carrier after a three-week mission there, officials said Wednesday.

The carrier left Tuesday to return to the Persian Gulf region, where it had been supporting NATO-led forces in Afghanistan before going to the African coast, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Among other tasks, aircraft from the Eisenhower had been making flights daily to provide close air support for Ethiopian and Somali forces that were working with U.S. special operations forces as advisers, one official said. The planes had never been called on to use their weapons and commanders felt the carrier was needed more in the Gulf region, the official said.

So far officials have acknowledged two airstrikes over Somalia, a couple of weeks apart in January, but have given few details. They are reported to have been conducted by other American forces that have been based in Djibouti for some time, though officials have not confirmed that.

At least two U.S. ships remain off Somalia’s coast – the guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill and amphibious landing ship USS Ashland, officials said. Before the Eisenhower arrived, they already had been patrolling the coast in search of al-Qaida members thought to be fleeing Somalia in the wake of Ethiopia’s December invasion to unseat an Islamic movement that had taken control of the Somali capital and allegedly been harboring the suspected terrorists.

American officials said last week that they would begin to withdraw Navy forces in tandem with the withdrawal of Ethiopian forces, which have started to leave Somalia.

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