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Barbara Starr: U.S. turns to Africa for al Qaeda

Barbara Starr
Barbara Starr  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As many as 800 U.S. troops are congregated in East Africa, preparing for planned missions to take action against al Qaeda terrorists thought to be in that region, CNN has learned.

CNN Pentagon Correspondent Barbara Starr filed the following report:

STARR: As much as the U.S. will say at the moment, U.S. officials are willing to confirm that there are somewhere between 500 and 800 U.S. military troops in the eastern African nation of Djibouti near the Horn of Africa. These include some Special Forces. Djibouti has been a longtime stronghold of the French military and a close U.S. military ally.

The troops in the region are prepositioned to go after al Qaeda wherever the U.S. believes they may be hiding out throughout this area. The U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship USS Belleau Wood is also in the region ready to participate if U.S. troops are ordered into action.

As CNN first reported in August, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was giving the U.S. Special Forces unprecedented authority to operate around the world, to move into countries, to hunt down and possibly even kill top al Qaeda operatives wherever they found them, even if the host nation didn't know that U.S. troops were in their country.

We are not being told exactly where these troops may be ordered into action, but this whole region is suspected of being full of al Qaeda operatives.

The nation of Yemen is a country of serious concern to the U.S. Top U.S. officials have said to CNN that over the last several months they believe top al Qaeda operatives are hiding in Yemen, a country that is the ancestral home of Osama bin Laden, where the central government has very little control.

They are also interested in taking a look at other nearby countries such as Somalia.




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