afrol News, 22 December - The "well informed source" at the NATO meeting in Brussels saying Somalia would be the next target of the US led war against terrorism, turned out to be the German Minister of Defence, Rudolf Scharping. Now, he denies he made such a statement.
Both the US Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, and the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs had lamented Minister Scharping's claims that the question was not "if" but "when" the US would attack Somalia. There were demands in Germany Scharping should leave his office.
Rumsfeld told the press "the German is wrong," without mentioning the name of Scharping, and adding that he probably was sorry about the comments he had made. The spokesman of the US Department of State, Richard Boucher, ridiculed Scharping (also without mentioning his name), saying this new information was very interesting.
The spokesman of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andreas Michaelis, told journalists yesterday; "Fact is, the Americans have not told us of such plans," adding he found the information "peculiar".
Minister Scharping on 18 December in Brussels told a journalist from the 'Financial Times Deutschland' that "who excludes Somalia is a fool." According to the newspaper, he had asked to be referred to as "German government sources". Later, however, he was identified as the source of the information.
In an interview with the renowned German journal 'Der Spiegel' yesterday, Scharping however denied this. "Fundamentally, I do not speculate about military operative plan, and I neither have any knowledge of military operative plans for actions against Somalia," Scharping told the Internet edition of the journal.
Opposition politician Edmund Stoiber demanded the indiscrete minister's dismissal. In an informal web poll, over 50 percent of the 'Spiegel' readership (mostly pro-government) felt Scharping should dismiss.
Meanwhile, the facts about a possible US attack on Somalia are further blurred. The US government has insisted it will continue its actions after the attack on Afghanistan, and most observers see Somalia as the next target. With the Somali transitional government posing cooperative towards the US, however, US operations in Somalia are expected to have a very different character of those in Afghanistan.
From the Somali capital, news agencies however report of a widespread fear the US might attack. Several city dwellers are reported to have left town in fear of air attacks. US military reconnaissance flights and other surveillance activities are scaring the residents. The belief in US attacks is common.