Somalia May Have Al Qaeda Memebers

By and

WASHINGTON?The United States is conducting reconnaissance flights over Somalia to help determine whether the al Qaeda terrorist group is rebuilding in the largely lawless East African country.

“We are working to ensure that Somalia is not a haven for terrorists,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday, acknowledging that the country could be a potential hideout.

Al Qaeda members, probably numbering in the dozens, have arrived in Somalia after fleeing the fighting in Afghanistan, officials said Thursday. Al Qaeda previously had a presence in the country, and also has ties to al-Itihaad al Islamiya, a native Islamic fundamentalist movement.

President Bush has pledged to go after terrorist groups with global reach, but with U.S. operations in Afghanistan still incomplete, he has declined to speculate on future targets.