By mid-December, the US Navy was scouring the world's oceans and ports for a fleet of 23 merchant ships owned by Osama bin Laden. These vessels could be used to help move Al Qaeda operatives or carry weapons of mass destruction to targets in the West. There had been at least one vessel stopped in the nearby Arabian Sea.
The United Kingdom had also dispatched four warships to the Kenya port of Mombasa; the submarine "Trafalgar" and the Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) "Diligence" (both of which made port on 21 December), as well as the aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious and the frigate HMS Southampton (both docked on the 23rd). The 20,000 ton aircraft carrier can carry up to 22 aircraft.
The sudden appearance of the Royal Navy led to heightened tensions in Kenya, where minority elements fear reprisals if terrorists targets in Somalia are attacked from Kenya bases. On 24 December, the British High Commissioner, Mr Edward Clay, clarified that the sailors and marines on a 10-day holiday in Mombasa after having spent several months at sea.
The Kenyan newspaper "The Nation" reported on 30 December that two German warships with 1,600 troops aboard would arrive in Djibouti on 2 January 2002. Sources in Nairobi said the Germans would take part in the second round of the war on terrorism. However, the Kenyan journalists confused the arrival time for that of ships' departure.
The two German Navy frigates ("Emden" and "Cologne"), the supply vessel "Freiburg", the fueler "Spessart" and two tenders ("Main" and "Danube") slipped out of the North Sea port of Wilhelmshaven on 2 January. Some press reports also claim that the flotilla was carrying 750 German marines.
Five class 143 and 143 A speedboats were expected to leave on 4 January aboard a special docking ship. The flotilla was due to reach the Horn of Africa in about three weeks, joining a German frigate already on-station.
This would be Germany's largest naval deployment since World War II. For Operational Security reasons, the government would only specify an operational area that included the Arabian Peninsula, northeastern Africa and the surrounding waters.
Under the command of Rear Admiral Gottfried Hoch, the mission was expected to last between eight and 12 months. A second contingent (currently being prepared) will relieve the first after six months.
On 3 January, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher admitted that the United States was conducting reconnaissance flights over Somalia, to determine whether Al Qaeda was rebuilding in that country. Dozens of Al Qaeda operatives had slipped in from Afghanistan. - Adam Geibel
The Gathering Ring Of Fire- More and more indicators point to impending military action against Al Qaeda positions in Somalia, Sudan or Yemen. Allied ships are apparently massing in East African ports, to protect civilian shipping in the Indian Ocean and cut off any routes used by terror groups.