Monday, February 12, 2007

It Must Be True: VOA reports "unconfirmed" deal aimed at freeing U.S. troops captured in Somalia

Although hushed up in Washington, there was apparently some foundation in fact to the report posted here on February 6 that about a dozen U.S. troops had been captured by Islamist forces during fighting last month in Somalia. In a dispatch from its East Africa Bureau in Nairobi just this morning, VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu quoted an "unconfirmed" Yemini newspaper report claiming that "a top Islamist leader, who surrendered to U.S. and Kenyan authorities last month, has traveled from Kenya to Yemen, allegedly under a deal aimed at securing the freedom of more than a dozen U.S. troops captured by Islamist forces in early January."

The report, which appeared in an Arabic-language newspaper, said "the United States agreed to allow Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed to go to Yemen in exchange for the release of the U.S. servicemen." VOA Correspondent Ryu notes that the captured troops were "allegedly seized around the Islamist stronghold of Ras Kamboni, near Somalia's border with Kenya, while the United States carried out air strikes in the area."

The reporter adds that "the Pentagon has repeatedly said that no U.S. ground troops were deployed in Somalia."

In the same VOA dispatch, Ms. Ryu also reports a third straight day of intensive attacks in Mogadishu by an Islamist group calling itself the "People's Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations." The group has claimed responsibility for much of the recent violence aimed at the Presidential palace and police stations. It has called for war against Ethiopian troops in Somalia and has threatened to kill any peacekeeper who steps foot on Somali soil.

(The full text of the report on these two subjects is available at the VOA website.)

My friend Bashir, who drew my attention to the VOA report, comments as follows:

The report by the VOA reporter Alisha Ryu is interesting, in that 3 weeks [after it first circulated] this 'rumour' is given credence just by the VOA's mentioning it and even more importantly by the last phrase--a blatantly false denial.

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