Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, hailed the death of the suspected head of al-Qaeda in east Africa and the man held responsible for American embassy bombings in the 1990s.
By Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg
12 Jun 2011
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was gunned down by Somali government troops, after he refused to stop at a roadblock in the capital Mogadishu last week.
Mrs Clinton said it was a “just end” for the man accused of bomb attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania which killed 224 people in 1998.
The 38-year-old Comoran’s death is also seen as a rare victory for the Western-backed Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, which is fighting al-Shebab Islamic militants linked to al-Qaeda for control of the east African country.
On Friday, the organisation claimed the life of Somalia’s Interior Minister in a suicide bombing said to have been carried out by his own niece, who had allegedly joined al-Shebab. The suicide attack was the third in Mogadishu in less than two weeks.
Mohammed died in an exchange of fire at midnight on Tuesday in Somalia, where he fled along with several suspects of the embassy bombings to take advantage of the country’s chaotic state. The confrontation came just weeks after Osama bin Laden was killed by American troops in Pakistan. He is the second top level leader to be killed since the US retrieved a cache of bin Laden’s notes and communications with al Qaeda commanders.
Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, Somalia’s president, praised government soldiers manning the checkpoint for killing Mohammed and Mohammed Dere, a Kenyan extremist who was travelling with him in a car loaded with medicine, laptops and mobile phones.
He said that as well as the embassy attacks, Mohammed had been linked to attacks in Somalia. He said his death could also lead to a breakthrough in the battle against Islamic extremists in the country and showed documents, pictures and videos recovered from Mohammed’s car which could provide vital intelligence.
Mohammed was carrying documents with the signature of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the top leaders of al-Shebab, the government said.
He also had on him £25,000 in cash, and was said to be travelling on a South African passport identifying him as Daniel Robinson, aged 40.
Gen. Abdikarim Yusuf Dhagabadan, Somalia’s deputy army chief, said officials at first did not know that the person they killed was one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, with a £3.5 million bounty on his head.
“We buried him,” he said. “But soon after checking his documents, we exhumed his body and took his pictures and DNA. Then we had learned that he was the man wanted by the US authorities.”
Dhagabadan described the death as “similar to Osama bin Laden’s,” the al-Qaeda chief killed by the Americans in Pakistan last month. “He was worse to us than bin Laden,” he said. “It is a victory for the world. It is a victory for Somali army.”
The confirmation of his death came the day before Mrs Clinton was due to lay flowers at a memorial for the dead on the grounds of the new embassy in Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania, on the second leg of her Africa tour.
“I know nothing can replace those who have been taken from us by such senseless violence. But I know justice was served and I hope that that gives you some measure of comfort,” she told the crowd.