The region is called Jubbada Hoose and it’s where US and Israeli commandos fear to tread.
Welcome to the heavily protected northern Somali hideout of Mohammad Fazul, commander of the November 28 al Qaeda attacks against the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel and Israeli Arkia airliner in Mombasa, Kenya.
Fazul and 15 to 20 members of his team destroyed the hotel, killing 10 Kenyans and three Israelis, their shoulder-launched missiles narrowly missing downing a charter aircraft with 270 people on board. DEBKA-Net-Weekly has learned that the terrorists, who must have skipped out of Mombasa on two or three light planes that were waiting at a bush airstrip near the Indian Ocean resort, were flown to a hideout located southwest of the Somali city of Xagar. There, they are in the company of at least 150 al-Qaeda and Egyptian Islamic Jihad fighters.
They are also well protected.
A coalition of Somali supporters of Osama bin Laden shelters the Xagar fugitive community. It is made up of local warlords, who receive money, weapons and orders from Colonel Barre Aden Share, known locally as Barre-Hiralle. The colonel gets his income, support and men from Sheikh Bashir of the fundamentalist Jama Islamiya and Abdulqassim Salaad Hassan, the transitional president of Somalia.
This al Qaeda hideout is therefore virtually inaccessible for Israel or America for raids to go in and capture Fazul and the hardcore al Qaeda team which struck in Mombasa.
Fazul ranks high on the US and Israeli most wanted list. He took part in and planned at least five major attacks over the past seven years. They included:
— The attempted assassination of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa in 1995.
— The hijacking of Ethiopian Airlines flight 961 on a flight from Addis Ababa to Nairobi in 1996. Among those killed before the plane crashed-landed off the Comoros Islands were senior executives of Israel Aircraft Industries and intelligence officials from Israel, the United States and the Ukraine.
— The 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
— The bombing two years ago of the USS Cole in Aden.
Any assault on the hideout would immediately bring thousands of fanatical Somali Muslim fighters racing to the scene. Israeli and American officers conducting the hunt for Fazul and his men told DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources that careful planning went into his choice of refuge. It bespeaks the extreme caution that characterizes Fazul’s planning for terrorist attacks and the way he charts fail-safe escape routes for himself and his men. One source commented that the Somali retreat is so heavily protected that any attempt to breach it might precipitate a battle “on the scale of the deadly ambush al Qaeda and Somali warlord Mohammad Farah Adid’s partisans sprung on elite US forces in Mogadishu in October 1996.”
After that debacle, Americans troops hurriedly withdrew from Somalia.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terrorism sources report that any attempt to go after Fazul will therefore have to wait until he comes out of hiding and leaves the country.