Somalis, Kenyans Hail Al-Qaida Mastermind's Death

June 12, 2011 - 8:28 AM

East-Africa-al-Qaida

FILE - This undated photo provided by the Federal Bureau of Investigation shows Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the al-Qaida operative behind the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. A Somali official said Saturday, June 11, 2011 that Mohammed was killed by security forces on Tuesday, June 7, 2011. (AP Photo/FBI, File)

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Kenyans and Somalis on Sunday celebrated the death of an al-Qaida mastermind who planned East Africa's worst terror attack in recent history and had eluded capture for 13 years.

The death of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed — a man who topped the FBI's most wanted list for planning the Aug. 7, 1998, U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania — was the third major strike in six weeks against the worldwide terror group that was headed by Osama bin Laden until his death last month. Somali officials said Saturday that he was killed Tuesday in Mogadishu.

Douglas Sidialo was blinded by the bombing in Kenya's capital of Nairobi.

"God the creator has delivered Fazul Abdullah Mohammed to his destiny the same way he delivered bin Laden to his destiny," he said. "When you kill by the sword, bullets and bombs you die through a similar tragedy."

Sidialo, who said he once wanted to skin bin Laden alive, said Sunday he has "moved on" and now would have preferred to see Mohammed captured alive and asked to account for his decisions.

"Any death is not a cause of celebration," he said.

Thousands were wounded when a pickup truck rigged as a bomb exploded outside the four-story U.S. Embassy building. Within minutes, another bomb shattered the U.S. mission in Tanzania's commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.

"Killing terrorists only breeds more terrorists. We must find a lasting solution to this menace," said Sidialo.

Another Nairobi resident, Philip Nyakundi, said he welcomed the news.

"Let these people be wiped out on the face of the earth, innocent kids were killed here ... in 1998 on August 7th. Let these people be wiped!" he said.

Mohammed, a native of the Comoros Islands, had been on the run for more than a decade with a $5 million bounty on his head. He was thought to be hiding in Somalia, whose ineffective government has been unable to stop terror groups from operating.

Mogadishu residents said Sunday they hoped Mohammed's death would also bring peace after decades of conflict.

"I am undoubtedly happy with his death because he was a killer, a plotter and a violence organizer," said Ali Abdi, 27, a trader. "The death of a blood-absorber like Fazul will help peace and demoralize terrorism. As Somalis, we suffered a lot as the result of actions like his violent ones."

Somali civilians are regularly caught in the crossfire between militants and forces defending the U.N.-backed government. The top militant group, al-Shabab, also uses harsh punishments, such as executions, in a bid to coerce the public into submission.

Somalia has been mired in violence since 1991, and al-Shabab militants are trying to topple the weak, U.N.-backed government.

Another resident, Abdirahman Ali Hassan, said al-Qaida "ruined our country and mutilated our people.

Hassan said Mohammed "was going to extend our country's violence and our deaths and his survival could cost the lives of many people."

Representatives of al-Shabab did not immediately confirm Mohammed's death, but Somali Information Minister Abdulkareem Hassan Jama said DNA tests confirmed that Mohammed was killed.

"His killing is removal of a problem, a person that was causing death and destruction to the people of Somalia, the region and the world," he said.

Mohammed was killed Tuesday at a security checkpoint in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, and Somali officials admit that they didn't immediately realize who he was. The body was even buried before it was later exhumed.

Mohammed's death is the third major blow against al-Qaida in the last six weeks. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on May 2 at his home in Pakistan. Just a month later, Ilyas Kashmiri, an al-Qaida leader sought in the 2008 Mumbai siege and rumored to be a longshot choice to succeed bin Laden, was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan.

The strike against Kashmiri was not the direct result of intelligence material seized from the bin Laden compound, U.S. and Pakistan officials say. If the account of the killing at the security checkpoint killing is confirmed, it would appear Mohammed's death is also not the result of new intelligence.

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Associated Press Television News cameramen and editors Josphat Kasire and Joe Mwihia contributed to this report from Nairobi, Kenya.