MOGADISHU, Somalia — A Kenyan man blinded in an al Qaeda attack on a U.S. Embassy 13 years ago said Sunday he welcomed news of the death of the mastermind who planned the blasts in Kenya and Tanzania, as Somalis said they hoped his death in their war-torn country would bring peace.
Somali officials announced Saturday that their soldiers killed Fazul Abdullah Mohammed at a checkpoint in the capital, Mogadishu, on Tuesday.
The death of Mohammed — a man who topped the FBI’s most wanted list for nearly 13 years for planning the Aug. 7, 1998, bombings in Kenya and Tanzania — is the third major strike in six weeks against the worldwide terror group that was headed by Osama bin Laden until his death last month.
Mohammed had been on the run for more than a decade with a $5 million bounty on his head. He was thought to be hiding in Somalia, whose ineffective government has been unable to stop terror groups from operating.
Somali Information Minister Abdulkareem Hassan Jama said DNA tests confirmed that Mohammed was killed.
“His killing is removal of a problem, a person that was causing death and destruction to the people of Somalia, the region and the world,” he said.
Douglas Sidialo, who was blinded by the bombing in Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, said he welcomed the news.
“God the creator has delivered Fazul Abdullah Mohammed to his destiny the same way he delivered bin Laden to his destiny,” he said. “When you kill by the sword, bullets and bombs you die through a similar tragedy.”
Thousands were wounded when a pickup truck rigged as a bomb exploded outside the four-story U.S. Embassy building. Within minutes, another bomb shattered the U.S. mission in Tanzania’s commercial capital, Dar es Salaam.
Sidialo added: “Killing terrorists only breeds more terrorists. We must find a lasting solution to this menace.”
In Somalia, residents of the capital said they hoped Mohammed’s death would bring peace after decades of conflict.
“I am undoubtedly happy with his death because he was a killer, a plotter and a violence organizer,” said Ali Abdi, 27, a trader. “The death of a blood-absorber like Fazul will help peace and demoralize terrorism. As Somalis, we suffered a lot as the result of actions like his violent ones.”
Somali civilians are regularly caught in the crossfire between militants and forces defending the U.N.-backed government. The top militant group, al-Shabab, also uses harsh punishments, such as executions, in a bid to coerce the public into submission.
Representatives of al-Shabab did not immediately confirm Mohammed’s death.
On Saturday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — who was on a visit to Tanzania as Somali officials confirmed Mohammed’s death — called the killing 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,” Clinton said.
Mohammed was killed Tuesday but was carrying a South African passport, so Somali officials didn’t immediately realize who he was. The body was even buried. Officials later exhumed it.
Mohammed’s death is the third major blow against al Qaeda in the last six weeks. Navy SEALs killed bin Laden on May 2 at his home in Pakistan. Just a month later, Ilyas Kashmiri, an al Qaeda leader sought in the 2008 Mumbai siege and rumored to be a longshot choice to succeed bin Laden, was reportedly killed in a U.S. drone attack in Pakistan.
The strike against Kashmiri was not the direct result of intelligence material seized from the bin Laden compound, U.S. and Pakistan officials say. If the account of the killing at the security checkpoint killing is confirmed, it would appear Mohammed’s death is also not the result of new intelligence.
Somalia has been mired in violence since 1991. Militants are trying to topple the weak, U.N.-backed government.
Associated Press Television News cameramen and editors Josphat Kasire and Joe Mwihia contributed to this report from Nairobi.