MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) – Ethiopia’s prime minister said yesterday the U.S. military targeted 20 high-level members of an Islamic movement linked to al-Qaida in an airstrike this week in southern Somalia, attacking quickly before the Islamists could escape.

The chief of staff for the Somali president claimed that a senior al-Qaida figure was killed in Monday’s airstrike, although U.S. officials did not confirm it.

The air assault has been criticized internationally, with the African Union, European Union and United Nations among those expressing concern. But British Prime Minister Tony Blair told lawmakers it was right to stand up to extremists who were using violence to “get their way” in Somalia.

Somali lawmaker Abdulrashid Hidig said the United States launched a new airstrike yesterday around Ras Kamboni, a rugged coastal area a few miles from the Kenyan border where Monday’s attack took place. He cited the Somali military as the source of the information.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told reporters in his country’s capital, Addis Ababa, that eight suspected terrorists were killed in Monday’s airstrike, five were wounded and taken into custody by Ethiopian forces, and seven escaped.w

Meles said most of the victims were Somali, but the identities would not be confirmed until DNA testing is completed.

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