New York, NY —
New Jersey Congressman Donald Payne landed safely in Nairobi Kenya today after the airport he was departing from in Mogadishu, Somalia, came under mortar attack.
Newark Congressman Payne had arranged his Somalia trip as a piracy fact finding mission several weeks ago before the piracy issue became front page news. Currently a dozen ships and 200 crew members are still held by Somalia-based pirates. The U.S. State Department currently advises all Americans to avoid Somalia, warning that terrorist operatives and armed groups can pull off attacks on Mogadishu International Airport. Today Payne visited with the recently constituted Somalia government leadership, including President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. As chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa, the 10-term lawmaker is recognized by both parties as Congress's top expert on African geopolitics. Payne has been pushing for a more pro-active US and multi-lateral engagement in the region. He's due back tomorrow night in Newark. A spokesperson for Payne says the 74-year-old Congressman had a similar close call on a visit to the beleaguered nation back in the early 1990s.