Al-Qaida’s Leader in East Africa Killed in Somalia

Posted June 12th, 2011 at 12:05 am (UTC-5)
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Somali authorities say security forces shot and killed al-Qaida's leader in East Africa during a confrontation at a checkpoint earlier this week.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was believed to have played a key role in the bombing attacks in 1998 that caused mass casualties and severely damaged U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam. The United States considered him among the most wanted international terrorists and offered a $5 million reward for his capture.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Tanzania Saturday, said Fazul Mohammed's death is “a significant blow to al-Qaida” and “a just end” for a man held responsible for deaths and pain among “so many innocents.”

U.S. President Barack Obama's assistant for homeland security, John Brennan, says the death of the al-Qaida operative is a huge setback for the terrorist organization and its allies.

Officials in Somalia said Saturday that Fazul Mohammed and another suspected terrorist were killed by security forces late Tuesday at a checkpoint near Mogadishu. Announcement of the deaths was delayed until their identities were confirmed, which authorities said they did by comparing the bodies to photos. The Somali government says DNA tests have since proved the identity of Fazul Mohammed.

Police say Fazul Mohammed, who also was known by many aliases, was carrying thousands of dollars in cash and multiple identity documents including a suspicious South African passport.

Fazul Mohammed was fluent in several languages and had been known to be a master of disguise.

Police say they suspected the al-Qaida operative arrived at the checkpoint by mistake after taking a wrong turn.

News of Fazul Mohammed's death came as Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab rebels claimed responsibility for killing the nation's interior minister.

Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan was killed by a suicide bomber Friday inside his Mogadishu home during a meeting with associates. Several other people were wounded. Security officials and a witness say a woman believed to be one of Hassan's relatives blew herself up inside the house.

Prime Minister Mohammed Abdullah Mohamed told VOA the attack was “heartless and un-Islamic.”

Al-Shabab has used suicide bombings to gain control of the Mogadishu and large sections of central and southern Somalia for at least three years. However, government and African Union forces have retaken parts of Mogadishu in an offensive that began in February. Al-Shabab is trying to overthrow the U.N.-backed Somali government and set up a strict Islamic state.