1998 U.S. Embassy blast suspect reported killed
Al Qaeda leader Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (inset), wanted for overseeing the 1998 bombing of the United States Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. The blast killed 213 people, including 12 Americans. / FBI/AP Photo/Dave Caulkin
Last Updated 4:05 p.m. ET
NAIROBI, Kenya - The al Qaeda operative who helped facilitate the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania has been killed, a U.S. official confirmed to CBS News.
"His demise deals a major blow to al Qaeda in East Africa," the official told CBS News Homeland Security correspondent Bob Orr.
A spokesman for Somalia's minister of information reported that a man killed last Tuesday by security forces at a police checkpoint was Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, a.k.a. "Harun Fazil," who is on the FBI's Most Wanted Terrorists list.
"We've compared the pictures of the body to his old pictures," he said. "They are the same. It is confirmed. He is the man and he is dead. The man who died is Fazul Abdullah."
CBS News has learned that fingerprint analysis of the body has confirmed his identity, according to the FBI.
CBS News producer Phil Hirschkorn writes that Mohammed was operational leader of the 1998 U.S. embassy bombing in Kenya that killed 213 people, including 12 Americans, according to U.S. government prosecutors. A simultaneous truck bombing at the U.S. embassy in Tanzania that same day killed 11 people.
His death, said John Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, is "another huge setback to al Qaeda and its extremist allies, and provides a measure of justice to so many who lost loved ones because of the actions of this terrorist.
"We commend the efforts of the Somali government forces, whose actions against Fazul struck a significant blow against those in the region seeking to carry out terrorist attacks," said Brennan.
The U.S., which possesses Mohammed's DNA and fingerprints from belongings seized years ago by FBI agents in Kenya and Comoros, had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
Mohammed has been a fugitive for 13 years.
Mohammed was also suspected by Kenyan officials of organizing Nov. 26, 2002, truck bombing of the Israeli-owned Paradise Hotel, in coastal Mombasa, which killed 15 people, and of coordinating the same-day launch of two shoulder-fired missiles at an Israeli airliner taking off from Mombasa, Kenya. The missiles missed their target.
CBS News obtained a copy of the only known video of Mohammed (about 10 seconds' worth) previously posted to our website in 2007 - the last time there were reports of his demise, also in Somalia.
The video, which was a prosecution exhibit in the first embassy bombings trial in 2001, shows Mohammed in 1996 on the scene at Africa's Lake Victoria, where al Qaeda's military leader, Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, had drowned in a ferry accident.
Before the U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, Mohammed trained Islamic militants in Somalia. He later organized attacks on Israeli tourists in Kenya.
"He's an extraordinarily dangerous individual," Dan Coleman, a retired FBI agent who spent years hunting al Qaeda, told CBS News in 2007. "He's the real deal."
According to testimony and evidence introduced during the 2001 embassy bombings trial in New York, Mohammed rented the walled villa in Nairobi where the conspirators assembled the Kenya embassy truck bomb. On the day of the attacks, he drove a white pickup as lead vehicle ahead of the explosives-laden truck toward the embassy.
"He hung around to watch the explosion," said Coleman.
While rescuers dug through the rubble for bodies and survivors, Mohammed fled to his native Comoros, a group of islands or archipelago, off eastern Africa.
Mohammed, thought to be 36 or 38, has lived in Pakistan, Sudan, and Kenya, where he also holds citizenship following his marriage to a Kenyan woman. He speaks some Arabic, French, Swahili, English, and Comoran, and is known to have at least 17 aliases.
As a teenager, after a brief stint in Pakistan to pursue an education, Mohammed reputedly took up arms with the mujahedeen, or Islamic "holy warriors," in the waning days of the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan. In 1991 and 1992, he trained at paramilitary camps run by al Qaeda, becoming an explosives expert and skilled at altering passports and travel documents.
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