On June 11, the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces reported killing al-Qaeda member Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, the mastermind of the 1998 terrorist attack against the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left at least 250 people dead and roughly 4,000 injured.
He was also involved in the 2002 attack against Israeli targets in Mombasa, Kenya, where 15 people were killed and more than 80 people injured. The 2002 Mombasa attacks were targeted against the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel. Two missiles were shot at a plane belonging to Israeli airline, Arkia, but the charter managed to safely continue its flight back to Israel.
Fazul was also involved in the killing of 18 U.S. servicemen in Somalia in 1993. He was on the FBI's most wanted terrorist watch list, and was appointed leader of al-Qaeda's Somalia branch, al-Shabaab, where he was directing terrorist attacks in East Africa. Fazul was born in the early 1970s in the Comoros Islands, off the southeast coast of Africa. He was holding dual Kenyan and Comorian citizenship at the time of his death. The United States was offering $5 million for his capture or killing.
From Afghanistan to East Africa
According to a report on the 1998 embassy attack, compiled by American and Kenyan
authorities, Fazul -- a close associate of Osama bin Laden – reportedly trained in Kandahar, Afghanistan and in Peshawar, Pakistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Kenyan newspaper Sunday Nation reported that Fazul, who studied medicine briefly while in Pakistan, moved from Afghanistan to Kenya in 1993 in the company of Wadih el-Hage. El-Hage, a Lebanese Christian who converted to Islam, is now serving life imprisonment in the U.S. for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings.
In November 2009, bin Laden named Fazul head of al-Qaeda in East Africa, leading the al-Shabaab group in Somalia. Fazul's cell was responsible for the 2010 terrorist attack in Kampala, Uganda, carried out against crowds watching the World Cup final match. The suicide attacks left 74 dead and 70 injured. After the death of Osama bin Laden, Fazul was believed to be one of the names to lead al-Qaeda. The killing of Fazul, then, is believed to widen the al-Qaeda power vacuum.
Bomb victims feel that justice was done
As many U.S. citizens felt "justice was done" with the death of Osama bin Laden, so do the people in Kenya and Tanzania feel about the death of Fazul.
The Kenyan newspaper Sunday Nation wrote: "There is no shame in celebrating the death of a fundamentalist who caused the unnecessary deaths of so many innocents."
Lucy Anyango Aringo, one of the survivors of the 1998 Nairobi bomb blast, and who lost her son in the terrorist attack, said, "The death of Fazul gives peace to my soul. Although his death may be painful to someone close to him, to me it provides a closure."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Fazul's death is 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 and Dar es Salaam and elsewhere — Tanzanians, Kenyans, Somalis, and our own embassy," Clinton said.
Kenyan newspapers warn, however, that his death does not mean that "the ideas that sustained him or the ambition of his associates to attack targets in the region have been
diminished." Authorities in East Africa are on the alert as al-Qaeda might seek revenge the killing of Fazul and of bin Laden by organizing terrorist attacks in the region. "Al Qaeda is not yet dead," the Sunday Nation wrote, "But recent events can only serve to hasten its demise."