Somalis: U.S. strike kills suspect in '98 embassy bombings - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

Kismayo, Somalia - 1/10/07

Somalis: U.S. strike kills suspect in '98 embassy bombings

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of the FBI's most wanted, is shown in a photo released by the bureau in October 2001. Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, one of the FBI's most wanted, is shown in a photo released by the bureau in October 2001.

A U.S.-led airstrike in Somalia has killed the suspected orchestrator of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in East Africa, Somali officials said Wednesday.

However, U.S. officials would not confirm that al Qaeda's Fazul Abdullah Mohammed had been killed or American involvement in the airstrikes.

Backed by U.S. air support, Ethiopian and Somali government forces battled Islamist fighters and al Qaeda operatives Wednesday in the southern town of Dhobley near the Kenyan border, according to Col. Abdirizaq Afgadud, a senior Somali military commander, and Abdirashid Hidig, a lawmaker.

A Somali official told CNN the United States confirmed that Mohammed was killed and no civilians harmed. It's unclear when the death occurred.

Mohammed, one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists, was accused of planning the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that killed 225 people. A $5 million reward had sought his capture.

Media reports suggested additional U.S. airstrikes had been carried out, but a Pentagon duty officer said he was not aware of any operations.

Villagers reported aerial bombardments in the region Tuesday, but it was not clear whether Ethiopian or U.S. helicopters were responsible.

On Sunday night, a U.S. aerial gunship carried out an airstrike on suspected al Qaeda targets in the same area, Pentagon and White House spokesmen said.

Sunday's strike was the first overt American action in Somalia since the U.S. military pulled out of the capital of Mogadishu in 1994, months after militia fighters loyal to a Somali warlord shot down two Black Hawk helicopters, killing 18 members of U.S. Special Forces.

Ethiopia's air force has conducted airstrikes in support of Somalia's interim government forces against Islamist fighters.

A senior Pentagon official said Sunday's U.S. airstrike targeted five al Qaeda operatives who fled to southern Somalia last month after Ethiopian-backed Somali troops forced Islamist militants out of Mogadishu.

Additionally, the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has moved within striking distance of Somalia, but its jets have not been put to use, the Pentagon official said.

U.S. officials have accused the Islamic Courts Union -- which wrested control of Mogadishu from a U.S.-backed coalition of warlords in June -- of harboring al Qaeda terrorists, including the suspects in the 1998 bombings. The Islamists have denied the allegations.

The Defense Department offered no details on whether Sunday's airstrike was successful, or whether the U.S. military has carried out further ones.

White House spokesman Tony Snow confirmed a U.S. military operation occurred overnight Sunday in Somalia but referred specific questions to the Pentagon. Snow added that he did not believe the U.S. Congress was consulted.

The operation, carried out by an Air Force AC-130, reportedly was launched based on intelligence that al Qaeda operatives were in the area.

Somalian interim President Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed had few details but said he supported its goals.

"I don't know that airstrike was in two places or not, but if it's confirmed, I agree with the Americans to target those who were behind the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa," Ahmed said.

Story courtesy of CNN Newsource.

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