Fazul Abdullah Mohamed, suspected of being involved in 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, was shot and killed in June in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. Captain Hassan Mohamed Abukar, who was at the checkpoint where Fazul was killed, said he’s received death threats and was wounded earlier this month in an attack by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab fighters.
Al-Shabaab has waged a four-year insurgency against the Western-backed government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. The rebels withdrew from Mogadishu on Aug. 6 after suffering a series of military defeats. Abukar was shot by a group of al-Shabaab fighters who recognized him while they were fleeing Mogadishu’s central Bakara Market.
“We were in the middle of an operation to secure Bakara Market on the day when we cleared the terrorist elements out of Mogadishu,” Abukar said in an interview on Aug. 14 from his bed at Mogadishu’s Medina Hospital. “A group of al-Shabaab militants suddenly appeared at a nearby corner and realized that I was the commander who killed their leader Fazul. They opened fire and a bullet struck me behind my right knee.”
Abukar said he was recognised because he was previously a judge in one of the Shariah courts that made up the Islamic Courts Union. Al-Shabaab is a splinter group of the so-called ICU that controlled Mogadishu for about six months in 2006.
Also known as Jame’l, which means university in Somali and refers to his achievements at Quranic school, Abukar said he was contacted by someone identifying themselves as an al-Shabaab officer after Fazul’s death and told he would be dealt with according to Islamic law.
On Aug. 6, Abukar said he encountered a group of fighters fleeing the city. One of the fighters, dressed in the green uniform worn by al-Shabaab militants, identified Abukar as “the big apostate,” before shooting him, he said.
Fazul was in a 4×4 vehicle with his driver, a one-legged man, when they were stopped at a checkpoint in southwestern Mogadishu at about 11:15 p.m. on June 7. Abukar says he ordered the driver of the vehicle, who identified his passenger as an elder of the community, to turn on the light inside the vehicle.
“He switched the light on and then switched it off quickly so we didn’t have time to identify them,” he said. “Then one of the occupants fired a bullet and I ordered my troops to rain fire on them.”
Without knowing their identities, the bodies were buried in Mogadishu. They were exhumed a day later after Somalia’s National Security Agency examined some of their personal belongings, including a laptop, three mobile phones, an AK-47 rifle and documents that were found in the car, Abukar said. DNA tests subsequently confirmed Fazul’s identity, he said.
“We really did a good job because we killed a man who was a murderer and who killed many Americans as well as thousands of Somalis,” Abukar said.
The near-simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi on Aug. 7, 1998, killed 224 people, including 12 U.S. citizens. Mohammed was indicted by a New York district court for his alleged involvement, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website listing the most wanted terrorists.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in June that the killing of Fazul dealt a “significant blow” to al-Qaeda. The U.S. had offered a $5 million dollar reward for information leading to his arrest or conviction.
“The U.S. government hasn’t given us a cent,” Abukar said, adding he fears for his life. “We need the U.S. government to give us our bounty of $5 million and to help ensure our safety.”
The U.S. government doesn’t comment on its Rewards for Justice program because of the importance of its confidentiality, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said in an e-mailed response to a request for comment on Aug. 16.