Fazul Abdullah Mohammed.
An al Qaeda leader wanted by the US for a string of deadly attacks has been named the new leader of terror group’s network in East Africa.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of several al Qaeda leaders charged with carrying out the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was appointed the leader of al Qaeda in the Horn of Africa.
Fazul was “inaugurated” during an open ceremony in the southern city of Kismayo, according to a translation received by The Long War Journal of an article posted Waaga Cusub, a website operated by the Hawiye clan, which supports the Somali insurgency. He “delivered his longest speech delivered his longest speech [sic],” the website reported.
During his speech, Fazul said he was appointed by Osama bin Laden and praised his predecessor, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was killed during a US special operations raid in southern Somalia in mid-September.
“Saleh was a very careful person, he was a hero and a creative man,” Fazul said. “He was an expert of Information Technology and politics. I am a military man, and was in charge of the forces. I will honestly perform my duties following my appointment to this new big position by Sheikh Osama bin Ladin (Allah save him).”
Fazul admitted to carrying out the 1998 suicide bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands more. He received sanctuary from Aden Hashi Ayro, the former military commander of Shabaab who was killed by the US in a strike in May 2008, and Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, the spiritual leader of Shabaab.
“I came to Somalia after we carried out the explosions of American imperialist in 1998,” Fazul said. “I was welcomed by the late Moalim Adan Ayrow [Ayro], my brother Ahmad Godane [Zubayr] joined us later.”
Fazul also said that al Qaeda and Shabaab would take the fight to neighboring countries.
“Praise be to Allah,” Fazul said. “After Somalia we will proceed to Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia.”
Zubayr, Shabaab’s leader, also spoke at Fazul’s appointment ceremony and praised Fazul’s skill in training Somali jihadis.
Background on Fazul Abdullah Mohammed
Fazul, a 21-year veteran of al Qaeda, is considered one of the terror group’s top commanders in eastern Africa. A senior US intelligence official described Fazul as one of al Qaeda’s “most dangerous and most capable leaders.”
“He has been at the top of our list for some time,” the official told The Long War Journal.
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 went on to serve as the operations chief for al Qaeda in East Africa. 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.
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 reported to be accompanying Fazul.
In August 2008, Fazul narrowly escaped a raid in Kenya.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.