Al Qaeda’s East Africa chief Fazul Mohammed killed in Somalia


One of the two men killed in the June 8 clash at a checkpoint near Mogadishu. Radio Mogadishu initially claimed the man shown in this image was of “Abdurrahman Canadian,” but a Somali official told The Long War Journal that the man pictured is Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. Photo from Radio Mogadishu.

Somali officials confirmed today that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al Qaeda’s leader in East Africa and a senior Shabaab commander, was killed at a Somali military checkpoint in Mogadishu earlier this week. Fazul is one of the most wanted terrorists in East Africa for his role in attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as well as his role within Shabaab.

Somalia’s minister of information confirmed Fazul’s death, according to The Associated Press. “We’ve compared the pictures of the body to his old pictures,” he said. “They are the same. It is confirmed. He is the man and he is dead. The man who died is Fazul Abdullah.”

A US intelligence official who tracks al Qaeda in East Africa told The Long War Journal that Fazul was indeed killed.

“We’re certain we got him,” the intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

News of Fazul’s death first came from Kenya’s top police official, who said Somali officials claimed the terrorist was one of two killed on June 8.

“We have received that communication from authorities in Somalia. We have been told that there were two terrorists who were killed in Somalia on Wednesday last week,” Kenyan Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere told AFP. The identity of one of the two dead Shabaab leaders had “been given as Fazul Mohammed.”

“TFG forces have confirmed they gunned him down at a roadblock on Wednesday,” Iteere later told The Nation.

Fazul was carrying “a South African passport in the name of Daniel Robinson” and was carrying more than $40,000 in cash, Sky News reported. “The passport, issued April 13, 2009, indicated that its bearer left South Africa for Tanzania on March 19 and was granted a visa there.”

An unnamed Shabaab leader told AFP that Fazul was killed.

“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,” the Shabaab commander said.

Neither Shabaab nor al Qaeda has released an official martyrdom statement announcing Fazul’s death.

A photograph of what appears to be Fazul’s corpse was published earlier this week. On June 8, Radio Mogadishu published a photograph of one of the two men killed in the clash at a checkpoint near Mogadishu, as well as pictures of the SUV and an AK-47 and body armor. Radio Mogadishu claimed the man shown in this image was that of “Abdurrahman Canadian,” but a Somali official told The Long War Journal that the man pictured is Fazul Abdullah Mohammed [see Threat Matrix report, Pictures of Al Qaeda leader Fazul Mohammed’s corpse, SUV, and weapon for more photos].

Fazul is the last of the three al Qaeda operatives wanted for the 1998 suicide attacks on the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to have been killed. In September 2009, US Special Operations Forces killed Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan during a raid south of Mogadishu. And in early 2007, Abu Tahla al Sudani was killed during fighting with Ethiopian forces.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, from his wanted posters.

Fazul, a 21-year veteran of al Qaeda, was considered one of the terror group’s top commanders in eastern Africa. Also, he was one of several non-Somalis to hold top leadership positions in Shabaab. 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.

He was responsible for planning the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as the November 2002 attacks in Mombasa, Kenya in which a car bomb struck a hotel and missiles were fired at an Israeli airliner. He also served as the intelligence chief for the Islamic Courts during its reign in 2006. Fazul went on to serve as the operations chief for al Qaeda in East Africa.

In November 2009, Osama bin Laden named Fazul as the head of al Qaeda in East Africa. He replaced Nabhan, who was killed by US special operations forces. Fazul’s promotion was announced at a ceremony held by Shabaab and attended by top Shabaab leaders, including Sheikh Mukhtar Abu Zubayr, the terror group’s spiritual leader.

“I will honestly perform my duties following my appointment to this new big position by Sheikh Osama bin Laden,” Fazul told those in attendance.

The US has targeted Fazul in several strikes since 2006. Fazul was previously thought to have been killed in a US naval strike in 2007, after Ethiopia invaded Somalia to bring down the Islamic Courts, Shabaab’s predecessor. 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.

The following year, 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.

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  • Lan says:

    Sure looks like him

  • Erik says:

    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy!

  • Don Juice says:

    Looks like the rat to me

  • Rod says:

    He came from such a nice family…Who would have thought!!!….He was such a nice lad, never caused any problems…

  • GarandFan says:

    The AQ “retirement program” sucks.

  • Butras says:

    Smoked at a checkpoint after a wrong turn. Jeez….

  • kp says:

    I though this might have been a cover story for a special forces raid. But given the photos it looks like it might have been the locals.

    The shooting is very good: 8 rounds through the windscreen. The other bullet hits side and rear view look like exit holes (I think). All shooting from the front. Looks like the occupant(s) didn’t return fire.

    The militia in place are an interesting collection: look at the shoes/boots. There are a couple well-turned out soldiers (with boots — AU?) but most seem like normal militia with a rag-tag collection of western uniforms, Soviet/Chinese weaponry and interesting choice of leisure clothes (“battlefield casual”?) mixed with camo.

    In a one photo not shown (larger versions on the original site) are the two Somalis(?) both in fully civilian dress with nice shirts and slacks but one with webbing with AK on the left. Local intel folks? Local bigwig + bodyguard? See the middle of this photo.×289.jpg

  • karl says:

    Any guesses that his location may have come from Bin Laden’s computer stash? Our progress over the past year gives me cautious optimism.

  • Tyler says:

    Presuming Kashmiri is indeed dead (I’m inclined to believe it)…thats three HVTs on the Most Wanted List killed in the space of 6 weeks.
    My thanks and gratitude to the Somali/AU forces who took him down, and to the American & allied personnel who hunted him for so long.
    The speed with which the US took custody of his body is interesting to me though. Anyone think JSOC or CIA had a direct hand in this?

  • Sammy says:

    One less Islamic Terrorist in the world. Until Islam rejects violence in spreading their beliefs this will continue to happen. We will not suffer these animals to live. Take note Islamic Terrorists this is your fate and hell will be your new home. We are not afraid of you.You are all cowards who hide behind women and children.

  • kp says:

    @Tyler: “Anyone think JSOC or CIA had a direct hand in this?”

    Initially I did but with the photos of the scene now available, I think not. I suspect anyone taking photos in the presence of CIA or JSOC would have been politely requested to hand them over.

    And to the reply “this is just what JSOC/CIA want you to think” I suspect not given the number of militia (“Somali TGF”) present. You couldn’t keep them all quite about the “four white guys” who were there.

    Plus JOSOC are going to hit him out of town not at a checkpoint.

    People do take a wrong turn; sometimes with fatal consequences (it’s happened in Northern Ireland to a few unwitting soldiers).

    The upside is not only is he dead but that we also got a intel haul too. Clearly we picked up a laptop or two, perhaps including his own one. I’m sure the US, South Africa, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will be interested in the contents of that. His passport(s) which seem to have been freshly issued. Tracking his movement (and any associates in SA) might yield something interesting: remember the AQ threat to the World Cup last year in South Africa? How AQ support is there? The South Africans have had problems with people being bridbe to issue “real” passports in the past. Time to clear up that fake document ring (plus perhaps find out what other fake passports have been provided). There’s the Tanzanian visa: real or fake? How was it issued? Where did he stay? Another set of leads to follow. And (perhaps) the unknown Canadian-Somali who must be trusted as a driver or perhaps mid-level or higher in his org to be hanging around with a big AQ fish. The CSIS will be interested in tracing him and his associates in Canada. And the $40K cash (any interesting forensics there? fingerprints?) and the sources of the medicines (again manufacturer’s serials, fingerprints, etc). Lots of parts of a tapestry to pick at to see if the threads come apart.

    Other interesting points: he didn’t have a bodyguard. He was traveling light? Is this an AQ trait to reduce their footprint? Makes them easy to kill when you do find them. He uses body armor to prevent himself becoming a “martyr”. That doesn’t seem to fit the ideology.

  • TimSln says:

    More great news, as the blows keep on coming to al-Qaeda. They are losing their most capable leaders.

  • Mirage says:

    I wonder who it is next, al-adel al-al-awlaki, maybe even al-zawahiri?
    I believe that another big guy will be killed, in about one week

  • Civy says:

    For all those soldiers bored out of their minds manning check-posts for endless days, it’s great to know that sometimes the bread and butter, routine things, are just as effective as a billion dollars worth of high-tech gear and the best trained men on Earth.
    It might be boring, but it’s effective. Keep at it!

  • Civy says:

    I noticed in a recent picture of rebels fighting in Libya that the rag-tag collage of vehicles were gone, replaced by flat black quad-cab trucks – likely Ford Ranger or Toyota Tacoma. Interesting in that they haven’t received pledged monies yet. All is not as it seems.

  • dahir says:

    Well done,somali army forces at the check point EX control….Thanks to PM taking farmajo taking our adivce blocking all road to bakara market…this made my day…somalia is one step saver..and the world is three steps saver… i feel like going swimming or maybe diving for joy…

  • Tim says:

    The South African passport is interesting. If it was not stolen, forged, or altered, our State Department should be asking who issued it, based upon what documents. South African passports require a full set of fingerprints taken at a police station or notary (one wonders who else used the same offices as this guy) for inclusion with the application. They take up to six months to process.

  • kp says:

    The person who was killed alongside Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, was another Kenyan jihadist, Mohammed Dere

    Regarding South African passport fraud this happened last year: “A senior administration clerk at the Akasia Home Affairs offices was arrested on Thursday after she was allegedly linked to a scam in which foreigners got legal South African passports.”

    And in 2009 the US beleive AQ was being supported in SA especially with “real fake” ID documents.

    Even back to 2004 this was recognized as an issue

    The problem seems to be corruption rather than a systemic government problem.

  • Render says:

    KP – Not all members of JSOC are white…

  • kp says:

    No implication should be taken. I’m pretty sure we have all races and ethnicities in JSOC. I was taking a slightly sarcastic stereotypical view of SF to the local civilians. Plus I’m pretty sure that I could pick out an African-American JSOC from the locals: Americans really are built/look/walk differently. They would have to higher locals to really blend in (and that’s more of a CIA thing).

    Another point against this being a JSOC hit was the target was buried locally (and then disinterred for samples once they realized who it might have been). If this was JSOC hitting someone they targeted he would have been in a body bag and removed from the scene (as they have done before in Somalia) before news of the attack leaked out.

    Sometimes we just get lucky … I’m all for that.

  • Tyler says:

    Wow, looking like we pulled another ‘trove’ off of the vehicle thats telling us about Shabaab’s activities not only in Somalia but worldwide

  • JimBo says:

    @JP Thanks for pointer to the directory of photos. I noticed a few things:
    1. Not all shooting so great – one tight group on starboard windshield. But about another eight distributed over port side of windshield, hood, roof, headlamp, starboard fender. Also, largish entry holes suggest > 5.56mm rounds
    2. A close-up of an assault rifle I didn’t recognize and I’m guessing not standard issue;
    3. Hmm, what is in cargo area? Looks like some kind of custom modifications behind glass. Armoring?
    4. Windshield armoring? Entry holds have horizontal stress lines and two rounds did not penetrate. If regular glass, I would have expected spider lines. Polycarbonate laminates?

  • Mike says:

    @Sammy – I couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • David Verbryke says:

    From a strictly American point of view, the killing of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is another victory over a determined but increasingly fragmented and feeble enemy. Again as an American, Mr. Mohammed deserved to be killed as much as any sociopathic bomber as he was involved violently with the Somalian catastrophe against Blackhawk Down. Whoever killed him, the Lord brought him justice on this day.


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