U.S. Launches Attack on Suspected Al Qaeda Members in Somalia

The United States launched a strike Monday against suspected Al Qaeda members in Somalia, a senior U.S. official informed FOX News.

The attack by the Air Force AC-130 gunship, capable of firing thousands of rounds per second, left casualties on the ground, but it is not clear if any of the dead were targeted terrorists, the official said.

The U.S. could have been targeting two terrorists — Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Nabhan — who are connected to the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa that left more than 200 dead. Officials have long suspected those involved in the bombings have taken refuge in Somalia.

There may have been a scent of terrorist movement when Al Qaeda operatives taking cover in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu were likely chased out of their hideouts as Ethiopian forces cleared out Islamists who had taken power there.

The move marks the first time the U.S. has mounted a mission in Somalia since forces pulled out in 1994, two years after entering on a mission to feed starving people there. However, due to the bombings, the U.S. has shared intelligence with allies such as Kenya and Ethiopia and this fresh attack could be part of an ongoing anti-terror operation.

The Bush administration has grown increasingly concerned about the threat of terrorism in Africa, so much so that the Defense Department is planning to create a new regional command specifically to focus on Africa.

Over the past decade, the U.S. military has been working to train African armies and has been particularly concerned about lawless states such as Somalia and other failed states where Al Qaeda elements and other terrorist groups have sought haven.

If necessary, the U.S.S. Eisenhower aircraft carrier is also in the region, within striking distance and loaded with firepower, and could be called into action.

FOX News' Mike Emanuel and Michael De Dora Jr. contributed to this report.