Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, al-Qaeda’s leader in East Africa, and the operative behind the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, has been killed, the New York Times reports. He was killed in a shootout with forces from the Somali Transitional Federal Government.
Mohammed was one of the most wanted men in Africa, and the U.S. government had placed a $5 million bounty on his head. But he was killed when he and another militant mistakenly drove up to a checkpoint manned by Somali government. After exchanging fire with Somali soldiers, both he and the other militant were dead. “This was lucky,” a Somali security official said Saturday night. “It wasn’t like Fazul was killed during an operation to get him. He was essentially driving around Mogadishu and got lost.”
Lucky though it may have been, as the Associated Press notes, this is "the third major strike against al Qaeda in the past six weeks," following the death of Osama bin Laden on May 2 and the death of Ilyas Kashmiri by a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan one month later. “Fazul’s death is a significant blow to Al Qaeda, its extremist allies and its operations in East Africa,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. “It is a just end for a terrorist who brought so much death and pain to so many innocents in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam and elsewhere — Tanzanians, Kenyans, Somalis and our own embassy personnel.”
David Shinn, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University, told Al-Jazeera that the U.S. has been trying to track down Mohammed, the "leader of Al-Qaeda in East Africa," with his "two colleagues for more than 10 years." The two colleagues were killed in 2007 and 2009, respectively, and Mohammed was "the last of three and he was the big one."
As al-Qaeda copes with these losses, former bin Laden colleague Abdullah Anas recently said at a London conference on terrorism, "I think the philosophy of al-Qaeda is failing now," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. Apart from being challenged by the recent Arab Spring, Anas "painted a picture of a terrorist group struggling to find its footing after its leader's death." At the conference, "all agreed the group was no longer capable of spectacular attacks like those of 9/11, due to the deaths of key leaders."