Bishop slams US attack on Somalia

A US air attack on a Somali village suspected to be sheltering al-Qaeda terrorists "risks throwing fuel on an already explosive situation" and is unlikely to boost support for the country's fragile transition government, a bishop responsible for Somali Catholics says.

Catholic News Service reports that while Bishop Giorgio Bertin, apostolic administrator of the Diocese of Mogadishu, recognises the presence of terrorists on Somali territory, he believes more US air strikes will only make things worse.

Bishop Bertin, who also oversees the church in Somalia's chaotic and violent capital, told Fides news agency on 9 January, the day after a US Air Force gunship fired on suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in southern Somalia, causing multiple casualties.

The US believed the suspected terrorists were responsible for the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

"Prudence must guide all human activities, and it is even more important when taking action in a country like Somalia," Bishop Bertin told the agency.

The bishop added, "I do not think this attack reinforces the support of Somalia's population for the fragile government of transition and for Ethiopia," which helped the transitional government regain control of the country in late December and early January.

Bishop Bertin told Fides that for years he had been saying that "elements of Islamic extremism," including those responsible for the 2003 death of an Italian lay missionary in Somalia, were holed up in Mogadishu.

After the transitional government regained control of the capital, it was believed that the extremists fled south.

"However, this does not exempt us from reaffirming that there can and must be other ways to stop extremism," Bishop Bertin said. "Beyond the ethical aspects, sowing death and destruction is counter-productive for those who want to fight terrorism."

The bishop said international support and assistance is absolutely necessary for the stability of Somalia and the consolidation of its new government, but it must be the people of Somalia who make the final decisions.

U.S. air strikes on Somalia risks fueling explosive situation, bishop says (Catholic Online, 9/1/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Bishop Giorgio Bertin (Catholic-Hierarchy)
Catholic Church Somalia (Catholic-Hierarchy)

Time to end scandal of hunger, Benedict says (9/1/07)
"I forgive" whispers dying Italian nun (CathNews, 20/9/06)
Mogadishu nun speaks of optimism in Somalia (CathNews, 13/10/04)

11 Jan 2007

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