Report: Embassy bombing mastermind dead; Update: U.S. officials doubt

The timing-questioning shall be fierce, coinciding as this does with the president’s speech tonight. The death hasn’t even been confirmed yet by the U.S.

I’m skeptical, just because good news vis-a-vis the big fish is so hard to come by anymore. Solid enough for a celebratory 9:15 a.m. beer, though? I think so.

American air raids in southern Somalia may have killed the suspected Al Qaeda terrorist who planned the 1998 United States embassy bombings in east Africa, Somalia officials said today.

“I have received a report from the American side chronicling the targets and list of damage,” Abdirizak Hassan, the Somali president’s chief of staff, told The Associated Press. “One of the items they were claiming was that Fazul Abdullah Muhammad is dead.”

American officials have said that Mr. Muhammad, 32, planned the attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 people.

The perpetual pessimists at Debkafile are uncharacteristically ecstatic:

Fazul, a Comorian, was a big fish. His FBI dossier is long and diverse. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report he was one of al Qaeda’s most outstanding, versatile and elusive commanders.

In 1993, Fazul took part in the 1993 in the Black Hawk Down ambush which left 18 US soldiers dead; in 1995, he was part of a failed assassination conspiracy against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Addis Ababa; in 1998, he masterminded the bombings of US embassies in Nairobi and Dar es-Salaam. Fazul was more directly involved in anti-Israel attacks than any other al Qaeda leader: In, he set up the 1996 Ethiopian Airline hijack in which four Israeli air industry directors and 3 Israeli civilians were murdered. He was among the organizers of the Oct. 2000 ramming of the USS Cole in Aden Harbor, which cost the lives of 19 US seamen. In 2002, he set up the coordinated anti-air missiles attack and raid of the Israeli Mombasa Paradise hotel in Kenya and the Israeli Arkia airliner flying tourists into the resort.

Our sources add that Mohammed Fazul was the senior contact between al Qaeda’s East African network and its Sinai cells.

In case they did miss him, they’re not taking any chances.

Update: His wife’s in the neighborhood. Well, one of his wives.

Police at the Kenyan coastal border town of Kiunga on Monday arrested a wife of Mohammed, with her three children, according to an internal police report seen by the AP on Wednesday.

Update: Who said it? “The Americans pursue Al Qaeda terrorists everywhere and (Monday’s raid) is really a part of that… [T]his was what should have been done, and it was the appropriate time to launch these attacks.”

Update: A U.S. intelligence official tells the Daily Mail he thinks they got one of the three AQ capos they’re looking for, but doesn’t name which one.

Update: Counterterrorism officials who spokes to the L.A. Times are skeptical.

The reports differed over whether [another AQ capo, Abu Taha] Al Sudani was killed by the airstrike or in subsequent sweeps by the Ethiopian military, the U.S. officials said.

One official described the intelligence as an “unconfirmed report suggesting it is a possibility” that Al Sudani was killed. The second U.S. official said the intelligence suggested a stronger possibility. “There are some signs of that, some indications,” he said.

The U.S. officials discounted reports that [Fazul] Mohammed had been killed.