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Africa's most wanted terrorist killed in Somalia

June 12, 2011 16:34 IST

The killing of Africa's most wanted man Fazul Abdullah Mohammed in Somalia is a "just end" to a terrorist and a "significant blow" to Al Qaeda's operations in East Africa, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

Mohammed, 38, was killed at a Somali checkpoint in Mogadishu, Kenyan and US officials said.

Mohammed, a citizen of both Kenya and Comoros, was long sought in Somalia for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Mohammed's death "a significant blow to al Qaeda, its extremist allies and its operations in East Africa."

"It is a just end for a terrorist who brought so much death and pain to so many innocents in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and elsewhere -- Tanzanians, Kenyans, Somalis, others in the region and our own embassy personnel," she said.

American officials also believe Mohammed was involved in attacks on an Israeli-owned hotel and airliner in Kenya in 2002, and had offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his apprehension or conviction.

Mohammed was stopped at a roadblock manned by forces of the Somali transitional government, but he sped through, forcing the troops to shoot him.

Mohammed's death is another blow to al-Qaeda and its affiliates as it comes just over a month after Osama bin Laden was killed in a US raid in the Pakistani garrison city of Abbottabad on May 2 and the death of Ilyas Kashmiri in a US drone strike in Pakistan's restive South Waziristan tribal region on June 3.

"Fazul's death removes one of the terrorist group's most experienced operational planners in East Africa and has almost certainly set back operations," CNN quoted an unnamed senior US official as saying.

Somalia's information minister, Abdirahman Omar Osman, confirmed that Mohammed was one of the dead in the shooting, calling it a "huge success" for his country's security forces.

A woman accompanying Mohammed was later arrested after the shooting, according to Somali government sources. The woman told authorities that the men thought they were crossing an Al-Shabab checkpoint rather than a government-run checkpoint.

The sources said the two men appeared to have modern weapons in their possession along with $40,000 in cash.

The bodies were then turned over to American authorities for DNA testing, the sources said.

The United States considers Mohammed a senior Al Qaeda operative in East Africa, accusing him of being an architect of the embassy bombings that killed 225 people.

In the past, Mohammed has managed to escape capture several times. He dodged a 2008 police raid in the Kenyan coastal town of Malindi. And in early 2007, a US-led air strike in Somalia failed to kill him. In 2003, Kenyan police also said he escaped authorities.

In December 2007, the UN Security Council amended a list of 25 Al Qaeda suspects subject to sanctions, including Mohammed. The description of Mohammed offered numerous aliases and said he had "reportedly undergone plastic surgery."

The FBI says Mohammed was born in the Comoros Islands, which are east of Mozambique, and has used birth dates indicating he was born in either 1972 or 1974.

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