Last Tuesday, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an al Qaeda operative wanted for involvement in the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, died during a shootout at a checkpoint in Mogadishu, Somalia. The passing of Mohammed, born in the Comoros Islands in the mid-1970s, has occasioned a number of public statements by Somali and international leaders as well as much commentary on what comes next for al Qaeda in Africa and for al Shabab, Somalia’s al Qaeda-linked rebel movement. Here is a roundup of articles:
- US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton: “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, Dar es Salaam, and elsewhere – Tanzanians, Kenyans, Somalis, others in the region, and our own embassy personnel.”
- Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed: “We have overpowered al Qaeda and al Shabaab in Somalia, they are weak and now melting away. [Mohammed’s] death is a major setback to al Shabaab and al Qaeda… He was a great burden to our government and to the neighboring countries.”
- Uganda People’s Defence Force: “With his death, the threat of attacking Uganda becomes less and it reduces the ability of the terrorists to attack Uganda. He was a prominent person and it is a great success in the struggle against terrorism.”
- AP/The Guardian includes reactions from Kenya.
- Time‘s Alex Perry: “In the last five years it seems Somalia has become too dangerous even for wanted international terrorists.”
- Christian Science Monitor‘s Tom Peter: “Mohammed’s death broadens Al Qaeda’s power vacuum following bin Laden’s death, and will likely disrupt Al Qaeda’s operations in East Africa.”
- Reuters: “Analysts said his death robbed al Qaeda and Somali affiliate al Shabaab of its most skilled operator and trainer, a master of attack planning as well as a computer expert with at least 18 aliases and a flair for disguise, forgery and bomb-making.”
What significance do you see in Mohammed’s death?
Can’t ignore the trade off in Mohammed for Mohamed – one step forward and two back. If the TFG responds to popular demands and keeps the Prime Minister then Fazul’s death could serve as a momentum builder. Otherwise I don’t think his void, despite an extensive skill set, will be noticeably felt next year. Especially if Saif al-Adel shows up. The fact that he was killed at a random checkpoint may not be as demoralizing as a raid either, whether AU or US.
Nicely put. Do you think there is a chance of Mohamed staying? I thought it was already a done deal.
May write on this tomorrow.
The PM was mentioned in the recent story of over $70 million earmarked for the TFG that is believed to be “missing.” The finance minister says he accompanied the PM on several trips to the Arab Gulf states where the PM is said to have received $5 million for the TFG on several occasions. The PM says he only received $5 million one time.
Most of the references about Fazul ‘Abdullah Muhammad that I’ve seen seem to be based on information on him that is quite dated (1990s, early 2000s). Beyond a classified AMISOM document that the International Crisis Group used in its report last year on Somalia’s Islamist insurgents that alleged he was in Harakat al-Shabab’s shura council, I’m not sure what else is available in open source. The AMISOM document is also not open for evaluation or scrutiny. I also have yet to see an official statement or response from Harakat al-Shabab about him, which is curious since they issued something within one or two days when Saleh ‘Ali Saleh al-Nabhani was killed.