Mogadishu. Under pressure from NATO forces in Afghanistan, al-Qaeda elements had taken advantage of the chaos in Somalia to set up havens and form new alliances.
The situational analysis of their presence in the Horn of Africa was alarming. It was understood that the wastelands of Somalia’s lawless and ungoverned frontier regions had become a hotbed for extremist activity.
Known high value al-Qaeda targets were believed to be hiding in Somalia where they had inserted themselves into the ongoing clan wars.Follow @newslexpoint
More than 10 years before the first Ugandan boots set foot in Mogadishu
suspected al-Qaeda operators, ghosting out of their Somalia bolt-holes had carried out a most heinous near-simultaneous attack in the East Africa region. Bombs set off by the group flattened buildings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
The bombings on August 7, 1998, killed 224 people, including 12 US citizens, and injured thousands in Nairobi. Ten people died and more than 70 were injured in Tanzania.
It is suspected that a similar strike on the US mission in Uganda had been averted, thanks to a higher state of vigilance of the security services here. No public affirmation has ever been made of this suspicion though.
And so, for 13 years, the American government had been hunting for one Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. An investigation had revealed that Fazul was the brains behind the East Africa bombings. American and East African lives had been lost; there would be hell to pay.
The Americans had placed a bounty of $5 million (Shs17b, at the current dollar rate) in 2001 on this terrorist’s head. Born in the tiny Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros, Fazul was considered by the US Federal Bureau for Investigation to be one of al-Qaeda’s “most dangerous and most capable leader” now that Osama bin Laden had all but disappeared from the face of the earth.
In absentia, Fazul was indicted by a New York district court for his suspected involvement in the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam outrage and placed very high on the list of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists.
The same Fazul was held responsible for the November 2002 terror bombing of a hotel in Mombasa and the attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner with surface to air missiles. This very dangerous man was also believed to have been amongst the planners of the deadly July 2010 twin bombings in Kampala.
As part of the global ‘war against terror’, the Amisom expedition, therefore, sought to both stabilise the country, while at the same time covertly working closely with US agents to ferret out al-Qaeda leadership targets known to be running riot in Somalia.
Sometime between 2010 and 2011, ‘intelligence chatter’ intercepted off al-Shabaab communications, disclosed the electrifying information that Fazul was in Somalia. Not only was the ‘butcher of Dar and Nairobi’ here, he was seated amongst the several non-Somalis who had risen to top leadership positions in the echelons of power, ‘deep cover’ sources inside al-Shabaab confirmed.
Fazul had had a long history of activity in Somalia, dating back to 2006 when he first popped up in the ranks of the Islamists.
Capturing or killing this person was a mission imperative in the context of the second shadowy war Amisom forces were waging parallel to their more publicised objective of sanitising Somalia.
In early 2011, the UPDF Battle Groups Six and Seven had set out on the ‘surge’ out of Mogadishu. Energised by the authorisation of offensive operations (a Chapter 7 peace enforcement mandate under the UN Charter), the Ugandans had neutralised the enemy firing positions at the notorious and deadly Kilometre 4 junction, liberated the terror outfit’s economic lifeline of Bakara Market and forced them into retreat out of Mogadishu.
So relentless was the coordinated advance of Ugandan and Burundi contingents, in spite of the sometimes limited resources and equipment at their disposal, that al-Shabaab was barely hanging on in Afgooye outside the capital Mogadishu.
On June 7, 2011, a unit of UPDF forces operating around Afgooye, acted on a tip-off, plotted for and lay in wait for what looked like a senior terrorist leader. Somali government forces set up a roadblock nearby. It was Fazul they would get, but they did not know it then.
On the morning of that day, Fazul was travelling in a Toyota Surf 4×4 with his driver, a one-legged man, and three or four others when they were stopped at the checkpoint southwest of Mogadishu at about 11:15pm The Toyota had been seen speeding from Afgooye towards Lido Beach in Mogadishu.
Source : Daily Monitor
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