Al Qaeda elder’s luck ran out

Somali soldier says he killed Mohammed at checkpoint

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Mohammed, a native of the Comoros Islands, had been on the run for more than a decade with a $5 million U.S. bounty on his head. Mr. Hassan said he doesn’t want to spend much time wondering whether he will get that reward, which is not typically given to law enforcement agents acting in the line of duty.

The United States does not comment on the status of reward offers.

“I’m happy that I killed the troublemaker. Somalis’ prayers and blessings are enough,” Mr. Hassan told AP in a telephone interview. “He has caused a lot of trouble in the country.”

Mr. Hassansaid the Toyota had approached the checkpoint at 9:40 p.m. June 7. He used the flashlight on his mobile phone to warn the vehicle to stop.

The checkpoint has no barriers. The driver could have driven on but would have risked being fired on from behind. Somalia has been at war for more than two decades, with a barely functioning government. Violent deaths are common.

The checkpoint had been in place for a long time, even before government soldiers and African Union peacekeepers began an offensive in January against al-Shabab.

The death of Mohammed - a man who topped the FBI’s most wanted list for planning the Aug. 7, 1998, U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania - was the third major strike in six weeks against al Qaeda. The embassy attacks killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.

Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on May 2 at his home in Pakistan. Just a month later, a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan reportedly killed Ilyas Kashmiri, an al Qaeda leader sought in the 2008 Mumbai, India, siege and rumored to be a long-shot choice to succeed bin Laden.

After the June 7 shootout, the Toyota sat at the scene for more than eight hours until security agents arrived, pulled the two bodies onto the sandy soil and began searching the vehicle.

“It was commander’s order to wait out until daybreak,” Mr. Hassan said.

The bodies were buried, and Somali officials initially said Mohammed was a South African national because he carried that country’s passport.

Officials combed through the vehicle and found several mobile phones, four bags of books and documents, three guns, a pistol and knives, Mr. Hassan said.

Officials realized from that evidence that it was Mohammed who had been killed, and they ordered his body exhumed.

Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said U.S. officials helped identify Mohammed, whose DNA was sent outside the country for analysis.

Mogadishu’s deputy mayor for security affairs, Warsame Mohamed Joodah, said policemen who were with Mr. Hassan told him that Mohammed was killed by Mr. Hassan.

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