Senior US diplomat tells BBC that Abdullah Mohammed Fazul survived Monday’s US air strike over S. Somalia
US ambassador Michael Ranneberger denied earlier reports that al Qaeda’s commander in East Africa, wanted for the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania and many other attacks, was killed in the American air strike. He also denied civilians had been killed or injured in the action. Kenya intelligence sources say that Fazul’s wife and the wife of another wanted al Qaeda operative, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, had been arrested in Kenya after fleeing the beleaguered al Qaeda-Islamist hideout at Ras Kamboni in southern Somalia.
The confusion arises from the poor communications in the remote area where the heads of the Islamic Courts and al Qaeda fugitives are embattled.
Fazul, a Comorian, one of al Qaeda’s most outstanding, versatile and elusive commanders. His FBI dossier is long and diverse. debkafile‘s counter-terror sources. Capturing or killing him would have vindicated the biggest American anti-al Qaeda operation since the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.
In 1993, Fazul took part in the 1993 in the Black Hawk Down ambush which left 18 US soldiers dead; in 1995, he was part of a failed assassination conspiracy against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa; in 1998, he masterminded the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam. Fazul was more directly involved in anti-Israel attacks than any other al Qaeda leader: In, he set up the 1996 Ethiopian Airline hijack in which four Israeli air industry directors and 3 Israeli civilians were murdered. He was among the organizers of the Oct. 2000 ramming of the USS Cole in Aden Harbor, which cost the lives of 19 US seamen. In 2002, he set up the coordinated anti-air missiles attack and raid of the Israeli Mombasa Paradise hotel in Kenya and the Israeli Arkia airliner flying tourists into the resort.
Our sources add that Mohammed Fazul was the senior contact between al Qaeda’s East African network and its Sinai cells.
Still at large are senior al Qaeda leaders Ali Saleh Nabhan, from Kenya, and Abu Taha al-Sudani, from Sudan. The ongoing operation has focused substantial naval, air and marine strength around Somali shores, led by The USS Eisenhower carrier which is patrolling the water between Ras Kamboni on the Somali-Kenyan border and Kismayo port. Kenyan units and the German navy are also deployed. They have cornered the embattled al Qaeda and Islamic Courts fugitives who are fighting out of their last positions after being driven south from Mogadishu. Warplanes from the Eisenhower continue to pound al Qaeda-Islamist routes to safety to the high peaks on the Somali-Kenyan frontier, or to sea, disguised as fishermen, through a chain of small Indian Ocean islands.
The AC-130 gunship strikes from US air bases in Kenya were launched Monday night, Jan. 8, when a combined Ethiopian-Somali military onslaught failed to resolve the battle with the Islamists in this southern tip of S. Somalia and casualties were mounting steeply on both sides. debkafile‘s military sources disclose that even when Kenyan special forces under US command were thrown into the fray, the battle was undecided.
The US warships now engaged in the Somali campaign, the first direct American military intervention in the country since the 1993 mission, also include the guided missile destroyers USS Ramage and USS Bunker Hill, as well as German naval units stationed in Kenyan ports. They are blasting the Islamist concentrations from the sea.