Al Qaeda’s East Africa operations chief escapes raid in Kenya

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Click to view.

Senior al Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed escaped a raid in the resort town of Mandali in Kenyan, police stated.

Kenyan police raided a home after “intelligence reports show that he came into the country from Somalia to seek medical attention because of a kidney condition,” an anonymous senior detective told Reuters. Two men were detained and two of Fazul’s passports were found.

Fazul appears to have received a tip that helped him escape. “We sealed off the whole area and had sea and land patrols but unfortunately, Fazul got leakage of the intended raid and escaped,” the official told Reuters. “We are still looking for him.”

Fazul, an 18-year veteran of al Qaeda, is considered one of the terror group’s top commanders in eastern Africa, where he serves as the operations chief. He was responsible for planning the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the 2002 car bombing attack in Kenya and missile attack on an Israeli airliner. He also served as the intelligence chief for the Islamic Courts during its reign in 2006.

Fazul joined al Qaeda after traveling to Pakistan in 1990. He was a member of the al Qaeda team that participated in the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993. Two US Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 US soldiers were killed during the heavy street fighting.

Fazul, along with al Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan and Abu Tala al Sudani, has been sheltering in Somalia with the Islamic Courts and its radical offshoot, Shabaab. The Islamic Courts and Shabaab have stepped up its attacks in Somalia the past several months. Islamic Courts and Shabaab fighters attack Somali and Ethiopian forces on a daily basis and again control vast swaths of central and southern Somalia.

Targeting terrorists in eastern Africa

A look at some of the leaders of the Islamic Courts, Shabaab, and al Qaeda in East Africa. Click to view.

The US and Ethiopian military have conducted multiple strikes against Fazul, Nabhan, Abu Tala, and other senior al Qaeda and Islamic Courts leaders since the Ethiopian operation to drive the Islamic Courts from power was launched in late December 2006.

A US airstrike killed Aden Hashi Ayro and Sheikh Muhyadin Omar on May 1, 2008. Ayro was the leader of Shabaab and served as an operational commander during the rule of the Islamic Courts. He trained under Hassan Dahir Aweys, the leader of the Islamic Courts who is also a senior al Qaeda leader. Ayro was sent to train in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan prior to 2001.

The US military struck an al Qaeda safe house in the town of Dobley in southern Somalia, just four miles from the Kenyan border, on March 3, 2008. The target was Hassan Turki, who had taken control of the Dobley region in late February. Turki is a senior leader in the Islamic Courts and its predecessor, al Itihaad al Islamiyah. He is believed to be running a military training camp on the Kenyan-Somali border. Turki is believed to have survived the attack.

The US Navy targeted Fazul in a naval battle off the coast of Puntland in June 2007. A large group of Yemenis, Afghans, Central Asians, Arabs, and Somalis were accompanying Fazul.

In January 2007, the hunter-killer teams of Task Force 88 killed Mohammed Jamal Khalifa during a raid in Madagascar. Khalifa, who was Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, had has deep roots in al Qaeda as a financier and facilitator. He financed Abu Sayyaf and helped found religious charities throughout Southeast Asia that served as al Qaeda fronts. He also helped finance and plot terror attacks in the region.

Fazul, Nabhan, and Abu Tala were targeted in southern Somalia in early 2007, just after the Ethiopians brought down the Islamic Courts.

The Ethiopians also launched airstrikes against Islamic Courts fighters who were fleeing into Kenya in early January 2007. The US targeted Hassan Dahir Aweys and Aden Hashi Ayro during this time period.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.




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