US Raid Believed to Have Killed Key Terrorist Draws Mixed Reaction

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - Amid reports that the U.S. military has killed a key terrorist in Somalia linked to the 1998 bombing of American embassies in East Africa, some Kenyans welcomed the news, while Islamic leaders threatened violent retaliation and human rights activists called the action "unacceptable."

Somali authorities have been quoted as saying that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, wanted for allegedly planning the deadly bombings in the Kenyan and Tanzanian capitals, was killed in an air strike in southern Somalia on Sunday.

Two more days of bombings have taken place since then, reportedly carried by an AC-130 gunship located at a U.S. counterterrorism base in Djibouti. Some civilians are reportedly among those killed during the raids, which have drawn criticism from the United Nations and European Union.

The first direct U.S. military action in Somalia in 12 years came after Ethiopian troops supporting Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) defeated Islamist forces who took control in Mogadishu and other parts of the country in mid-2006.

Mohammed, a Comoros national indicted in September 1998 in the Southern District of New York and carrying a U.S. reward of up to $5 million, was among several key terror suspects believed to be among the routed Islamists.

Others include Abu Talha al Sudani, a Sudanese explosives expert thought to head al Qaeda's East African operations, and Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. Both are suspected of involvement in terror attacks in Kenya.

"The strikes have been going on and will continue until no terrorist survives," TFG Information Minister Ali Ahmed Jama Jangali said.

A total of 224 people, including 12 Americans, were killed in the near-simultaneous al Qaeda bombings of the American missions in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam on Aug. 7, 1998. Thousands more were injured.

The Supreme Council of Kenyan Muslims condemned this week's air raids and warned that American and Ethiopian troops "will be met with all the necessary force they deserve" if they continued operations in Somalia.

Following the Islamist defeat in Mogadishu, al Qaeda number two Ayman Zawahiri issued a statement tying events in Somalia to the global jihad and urging Muslims everywhere, particularly those in northern Africa and the Gulf states, to participate.

Calling for ambushes, raids and suicide missions, the fugitive terrorist predicted victory against Ethiopia and the United States.

The Kenyan minister in charge of national security said the government has mobilized armed forces and police patrol along the 1,250-mile long border with Somalia.

John Michuki said the authorities would continue to arrest Somalis working against the interests of the TFG, adding "we cannot welcome people who are opposed to a friendly government."

This week's events have drawn mixed responses in neighboring Kenya, where many urged rapid deployment of a peacekeeping force in Somalia to prevent the situation there from deteriorating further.

Ochieng Okumu, a Kenyan medical researcher who lost a relative in the Nairobi embassy bombing, said he was happy that some of those responsible may have been killed.

He did think, however, that capturing the terrorists may have been a better option as they may have provided useful intelligence on terror activities.

Some Kenyans who spoke to Cybercast News Service wondered why bodies like the African Union and the seven-nation regional bloc, IGAD, were not doing more to develop mechanisms to arrest terrorists hiding in member states.

"If all along it was suspected these people were hiding here, why didn't the Africans act instead of waiting for Americans?" asked James Kamoi, a college teacher in Nairobi. He praised the U.S. action, saying it would deter would-be terrorists.

Others said the U.S. military should have arrested the suspects rather than launch air strikes.

"The U.S. is better militarily equipped and has a better combat tactics [than the Islamists]," noted Tom Mwanga, the director of InspireKenya, a foreign professionals volunteer services company. "Why not just arrest them?"

Nairobi MBA student Cess Wairimu worried that the bombing would "spark revenge attacks and more innocent people will be killed."

"The action is unacceptable in the human rights world," said Steve Ouma, director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission.

He said the U.S. military actions could end up stoking terrorism rather than quelling it, and urged the Kenyan government not to support them.

( Managing Editor Patrick Goodenough contributed to this report.)

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