MOGADISHU (AFP) – The presumed head of Al-Qaeda in east Africa, Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, wanted for blowing up the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was killed in Mogadishu this week, sources said Saturday.
Fazul Abdullah, 38, is thought to have planned the massive truck bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam that killed 224 people in 1998 and had a $5 million bounty on his head.
Kenyan Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere told AFP Saturday that authorities in Somalia had given the identity of one of two “terrorists” killed in Somalia on Wednesday as Fazul Muhammad.
It confirmed a report from a commander of Somalia’s rebel Al-Shebab movement who told AFP earlier this week on condition of anonymity, “One of the men that was killed near Mogadishu was Fazul Abdullah, may Allah bless his soul.
“He is not dead as thousands like him are still in the fight against the enemy of Allah.”
Officials with the Somali Transitional Government (TFG) said the men were killed at a roadblock on Tuesday night.
“Our forces fired on two men who refused to stop at a roadblock. They tried to defend themselves when they were surrounded by our men,” TFG military commander Abdikarim Yusuf told AFP.
“We took their ID documents, one of which was a foreign passport,” he said, adding that an investigation was under way.
The incident happened on the northwestern outskirts of the Somali capital, a regional security source said.
The two men were driving in a pick-up truck full of medicine, laptops and mobile phones.
The same source said they appeared to have taken a wrong turning while trying to reach a Shebab position and ended up in an area under TFG control.
A Somali source close to the investigation said the man identified as Fazul was in possession of a South African passport in the name of Daniel Robinson which gave his date of birth as 1971.
The passport, issued April 13, 2009, indicated that its bearer left South Africa for Tanzania on March 19 and was granted a visa there. The Tanzanian visa was the only one in the passport.
The man was also in possession of $40,000 in cash, the same Somali source said. He appeared to have come from Lower Juba in southern Somalia where he was heading a group of foreign fighters under the name of “Abu-Abdirahman the Canadian.”
The second man killed was a known Kenyan jihadist called Mohammed Dere, a Nairobi-based security source told AFP, adding that the Kenyan intelligence services were checking the DNA of the two men.
Contrary to normal practice when such incidents occur, the bodies of the two men were picked up by the Somali intelligence services and given to US officials for identification.
Photos taken shortly after the incident show a bloodied corpse lying on its back, with the face turned up and a pickup truck with an armoured windscreen peppered with bullet holes.
The face bears a resemblance to the “Wanted” photos put out by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The United States had been hunting Fazul for the past decade and had put a $5 million bounty on his head.
Fluent is several languages and using a variety of pseudonyms Fazul was a past master in disguise and moved freely round the whole region, while still keeping a low profile.
He had been fighting for several years in the ranks of the Shebab and was in charge of foreign fighters and volunteers.
The Shebab deliberately cultivates mystery around its foreign fighters, made up mostly of Somalis from the diaspora and east Africans, who are thought to be implicated in many of the suicide attacks carried out by the rebels.
The only figure with a public profile is Abu Mansur al-Amriki, a US national of Syrian origin.
Fazul’s death comes one month after that of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, killed by American forces on May 2 in Pakisatan.
Another senior Al-Qaeda figure in the Horn of Africa, the Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, was killed in September 2009 in a US raid on south Somalia.
Fazul joined Al-Qaeda in 1991 and was believed to be behind the 1998 embassy bombings, the worst attack by Al-Qaeda until the September 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers.
From 2002 he was put in charge of the group’s operations in the whole of east Africa.
That same year he planned anti-Israeli attacks in Mombasa that killed 15 people.
On January 8, 2007 he survived a US raid that left dozens of people dead at Ras Kamboni in southern Somalia.