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.