Al-Qaida militant who masterminded attacks on two US embassies in East Africa shot dead by security forces
The mastermind of the 1998 bombings of two American embassies in East Africa – the attack which brought the al-Qaida terrorist group to global attention – was reported killed in Somalia.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who had a $5m (£3m) price put on his head by US authorities, was widely seen as one of the most wanted Islamic militants in the world.
The 1998 attacks killed more than 200 and injured several thousand people. The vast majority of the casualties were local African staff or passers-by caught in the multiple explosions that destroyed the embassies.
The then US president Bill Clinton ordered punitive missile strikes into Afghanistan and Sudan following the bombings, which had little effect other than reinforcing the notoriety of those responsible.
The news comes six weeks after al-Qaida's leader Osama bin Laden was killed in a US special forces raid in Pakistan. Last week, Ilyas Kashmiri, another senior militant with ties to al-Qaida, was reported to have been killed.
Kenyan police, who cited Somali officials, said on Saturday that Abdullah had been shot dead after he and an associate refused to stop at a checkpoint northwest of Mogadishu earlier last week.
The dead man, thought to be 38-years-old, carried a false passport and $40,000 in cash.
"We have confirmed he was killed by our police at a control checkpoint this week," Halima Aden, a senior national security officer in Somalia, told Reuters.
"He had a fake South African passport and, of course, other documents. After thorough investigation, we confirmed that it was him," Aden added.
It was not immediately possible to confirm Abdullah's death independently – though the AFP news agency published images of the face of the dead man which resembled images previously published by US investigators.
There was also confusion over what had happened to Abdullah's remains: some reports said they had been buried and others claimed they had been handed to US authorities.
In addition to acting as operational chief for the 1998 attacks, Abdullah is thought to have organised the 2002 attacks on Israeli targets, including a plane, in Mombassa and to have narrowly escaped death in a US air strike in Somalia in 2007. Born in the Comoros Islands, he was educated in Saudi Arabia before travelling to Afghanistan in the early 1990s. He is thought to have been in Mogadishu in 1993 during fighting there.
US authorities have steadily tracked down almost all those responsible for the 1998 bombing attacks, and many were brought to trial in the US in 2001.
The death of Abdullah will be a loss for al-Qaida in east Africa, where he was active, area but is unlikely to have a significant impact on the overall capabilities of the leadership element based in Pakistan. Like most regional branches of al-Qaida, even those violent Islamic extremists in east Africa who have sworn allegiance to Bin Laden have remained largely autonomous. Abdullah was one of the few militants based in Africa who followed a global agenda and who was willing to launch attacks on international targets.
The Rest @ the Guardian (UK)