- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 10, 2007

12:54 p.m.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A senior al Qaeda suspect wanted for bombing American embassies in East Africa was killed in a U.S. air strike, a Somali official said today. The report, if confirmed, would mean the end of an eight-year hunt for a top target of Washington’s war on terrorism.

In Washington, U.S. government officials said they had no reason to believe that the suspect, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, had been killed. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the information’s sensitivity.

The report came as U.S. forces apparently carried out a third day of air strikes in southern Somalia. At least four strikes were reported around Ras Kamboni, on the Somali coast near the Kenyan border. Witnesses said an AC-130 gunship attacked a suspected al Qaeda training camp.

A senior Somali government official also said a small U.S. team has been providing military advice to Ethiopian and government forces on the ground. A U.S. official said it would be virtually unheard of for the United States to be involved in an operation of this size without “eyes on the ground.”

Two senior Pentagon officials said they had heard of no plans to put any sizable contingent of Americans in Somalia. However, small teams of liaison officers such as special forces or trainers — are another matter, the officials said.

“I have received a report from the American side chronicling the targets and list of damage,” said Abdirizak Hassan, the Somali president’s chief of staff. “One of the items they were claiming was that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is dead.”

In Washington, an intelligence official said five to 10 people were killed in a U.S. attack on an al Qaeda target in southern Somalia but did not say who was killed. The official said perhaps four or five others were wounded.

Fazul, the al Qaeda suspect believed killed in the air strike Monday, was wanted for purportedly planning the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 persons.

He also is suspected of planning the car bombing of an Israeli beach resort in Kenya and the near-simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel, 12 miles north of Mombasa. The missiles missed the airliner.

Fazul, 32, joined al Qaeda in Afghanistan and trained there with Osama bin Laden, according to the transcript of an FBI interrogation of a known associate. He had a $5 million bounty on his head.

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