MOGADISHU, Somalia, March 11 (UPI) — The reported takeover of Somalia’s al-Shebab Islamists by al-Qaida veteran Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, alleged mastermind of the 1988 [sic] U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, could rally the divided jihadists as they brace for a U.S.-backed government offensive.
According to counter-terrorism operatives in Kenya, Somalia’s northern neighbor that sides with the beleaguered TFG in Mogadishu, officials believe Fazul took command of the jihadist forces following the assassination of Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan by U.S. SEALs on Sept. 14.
Nabhan’s convoy was attacked by U.S. Navy helicopters south of Mogadishu near Baraawe in a raid codenamed Operation Celestial Balance in which he was the main target.
The Kenya-born Nabhan, a close associate of Fazul for many years, was wanted for involvement in the Aug. 7, 1998, embassy bombings in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam, Tanzania, in which 241 people were killed.
U.S. authorities also wanted him for twin attacks in the Kenyan port city of Mombasa on Nov. 28, 2002 — the suicide bombing of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel and a near-simultaneous two-missile attack on an Israeli airliner that had just taken off from the city’s airport. The bombing killed 15 people; the missiles missed the Boeing 757 taking Israeli vacationers home.
Fazul was born in the Comoros Islands in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Mozambique in 1972. He trained as a computer expert and speaks five languages, including English, French and Arabic.
While pursuing Islamic studies in Pakistan, he was recruited by al-Qaida in 1991 and was sent to Somalia to help train Islamist militiamen. He has been closely linked to them since.
He took over leadership of al-Qaida’s East Africa cell following the embassy bombings and was heavily involved in the African “blood diamonds” trade to fund al-Qaida….