Somalia’s president on Sunday confirmed the killing of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, head of Al Qaeda’s East African operations and the most wanted man in Africa, as more details emerged about his death at a checkpoint in Mogadishu.
Mohammed, wanted for bombing the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, killing 224 people, had a $5 million bounty on his head.
On Sunday, the Somali transitional government (TFG) officially confirmed Mohammed’s death, and said that he and another militant died on the night of June 8 in a shootout at a checkpoint in Mogadishu when the pickup truck he was in “refused to stop.”
Mohammed and the second man, a known Kenyan extremist, were driving a pickup truck full of medicine, laptops, mobile phones and $40,000 in cash, when they reportedly took a wrong term and ended up at the TFG checkpoint.
The two passengers in the pickup truck "refused to stop, tried to escape by exchanging fire with security forces, and were shot dead," the TFG said in a statement, reports Agence France-Presse.
Mohammed was carrying a South African passport in the name of “Daniel Robinson,” which gave his year of birth as 1971, reports AFP, citing a Somali source.
The passport was reportedly issued April 13, 2009, and had a Tanzanian visa from March 19 — the only visa in the passport.
Mohammed was also found to be carrying evidence clearly linking him to Somali Islamist insurgents, the government said.
He "was carrying ... documents with the signature of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the top leaders of Al-Shabab, an affiliate of Al Qaeda," it said.
Somalia's President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed congratulated government soldiers for the killing of Mohammed.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a tour of Africa, hailed Mohammed's death as 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 personnel," she said while visiting Tanzania's commercial capital Dar es Salaam, according to AFP.
Mohammed’s death follows that of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, killed by U.S. special forces in Pakistan on May 2, and that of top commander Ilyas Kashmiri, said to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike in early June
Mohammed was born in the Comoros islands in the early 1970s, and is believed to have joined Al Qaeda in Afghanistan during the 1990s, the BBC reports.