Al-Qaeda embassy bomb mastermind shot dead
THE leader of al-Qaeda in Africa, suspected of masterminding the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, has been shot dead in Somalia.
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was on the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list with a €4m bounty on his head for planning the attacks, which killed 224 people including 12 Americans.
Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, said his death was a significant blow to al-Qaeda and its allies. "It is a just end for a terrorist who brought so much death and pain to so many innocents," she said.
The 38-year-old was one of two terrorists in a pickup truck carrying medicine, laptops and mobile phones when he was shot by government soldiers at a checkpoint in the capital, Mogadishu, after being apprehended -- apparently by chance. His death comes just six weeks after that of the al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Fazul was carrying a false South African passport and had been heading towards an area controlled by the rebel Shebab movement, which imposes a Taliban-style regime across parts of the lawless country.
The two men's vehicle appeared to have taken a wrong turning while trying to reach a Shebab position, ending up instead in an area under the control of the transitional government.
A White House official said: "This is a very big deal. Fazul's death removes one of the terrorist group's most experienced operational planners in east Africa and has almost certainly set back operations."
A spokesman for Somalia's ministry of information said Fazul's identity had been checked following the shooting last Wednesday. "We've compared the pictures of the body to his old pictures," he said. "They are the same."
Fazul joined al-Qaeda in 1991 and was believed to be behind the August 1998 embassy bombings, the worst atrocity by al-Qaeda until the September 2001 attacks.
In 2002 he was put in charge of the group's operations in east Africa. That same year he planned anti-Israeli attacks in Mombasa that killed 15 people.