On Friday, June 10, 2011, 38 year old Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the head of Al Qaeda in East Africa, has been killed at a roadblock in Mogadishu. His car failed to stop for a military roadblock, so soldiers fired on his vehicle, killing him. It was not the West who got him after all.
In 1992, as a very young man, he had participated in the Black Hawk Down firefight in Somalia that killed 18 US Marines. In 1995, he returned to the Comoro Islands, his birthplace. He settled in the capital of Moroni, married a local girl and worked as a fisherman. Formerly of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which he had joined as a very young man, Fazul was already working for Al Qaeda. He immediately set about planning Al Qaeda attacks.
One year later, he hijacked Ethiopian Airways Flight 961 from Addis Ababa to Nairobi. The plane was forced down near the Comoros, but before it landed, the Al Qaeda force on board executed Leslie Shed, CIA station chief in Addis Ababa, five heads of Israel’s aviation industries, and a deputy commander of the Ukrainian Air Force. They were headed to a meeting in Jerusalem where they were going to discuss a deal whereby Ukraine would supply jets to Ethiopia which would be provided by Israel and would be paid for by the US.
To this day, all three nations have kept a tight lid on the case because they never figured out Fazul obtained the top secret information about who was traveling on the flight.
Soon after the plane landed, the hijackers took off in speedboats that were waiting for them. They sped off to the Comoros. They were never caught.
Two years later, Fazul masterminded the attack on the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, killing 224 people, the biggest Al Qaeda attack to date.
The FBI figured out that Fazul was involved in the bombing and headed to Moroni. Too late, he was gone, tipped off that the FBI was after him. In 1998, he was placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List with a $5 million price tag on his head.
In 2002, Fazul pulled off another attack, this time in Kenya. He attacked Israeli targets, first attacking the Paradise Hotel in Mombassa, favored by Israeli tourists, with a suicide truck bomb. Next he chartered a plane and flew it near an Israeli Arkia passenger jet, firing a missile at the jet and just missing it. They flew the plane over the hotel they had just bombed, and dropped bombs on the hotel from their plane. Then they hightailed it to Somalia where they escaped.
In 2010, he attacked again, this time suicide bombing multiple cafes in Uganda that were filled with crowds watching the World Cup Final in South Africa. This attack was in retaliation for Uganda taking part in the peacekeeping mission in Somalia, where Fazul was leading the Al Qaeda allied Shabaab movement that was trying to topple the barely existing Somalian government.
Fazul was a master terrorist, one of Al Qaeda’s finest commanders and organizers. He hid successfully from the finest forces of the West for 15 years. A master of disguise and forgery, he spoke 5 different languages, used 18 different names and had three different birthplaces. At the time of his death, he had plans on him for attacks against targets in the West.
His death leaves Al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa and East Africa high and dry, missing their terrorist leader and superb guerrilla fighter.