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Fighting terror

FBI seeks suspect in African attacks

©Associated Press

March 22, 2003


MOMBASA, Kenya -- Investigators are looking for a young African Islamic teacher they believe was an architect of the Nov. 28 terrorist attacks on Kenya's Indian Ocean coast and the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings that killed 224 people, the Associated Press reported, quoting unnamed sources.

It is the clearest indication of a link between the two sets of attacks and an example of how deep al-Qaida's roots run in East Africa.

The suspect has been identified as Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, an al-Qaida operative charged in the embassy bombings, by his wife from photos on the FBI's most-wanted terrorist list, sources close to the case said.

The FBI describes Fazul, a slight man in his late 20s or early 30s, as a computer whiz who speaks many languages including French, Arabic and English.

Born in the Comoros Islands off the coast of Mozambique, he carries a Kenyan passport and is said to have trained with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan.

Al-Qaida claimed responsibility for the Nov. 28 suicide bombing of a hotel crowded with Israelis and the simultaneous missile attack on an Israeli tourist jet as it took off from Mombasa airport. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel, 12 miles north of Mombasa. The missiles missed the airliner.

Detective Joseph Narangwi, a senior member of the investigation, confirmed police "believe some of the suspects who are being sought by police for the 1998 bombings have links with the Nov. 28 attacks."

He would not say if Fazul was one of them but said investigators, including U.S. personnel, continue to "conclusively connect" the attacks.

U.S. officials in Nairobi wouldn't comment, but a State Department official in Washington told the Associated Press it was logical to assume those behind the attacks are connected.

The U.S. indictment charging Fazul in the 1998 attack on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania says he spent time in Somalia, believed to be a haven for terrorists.

On Wednesday, Kenyan police said they were holding a suspected member of al-Qaida for questioning about several terrorist attacks in East Africa. The suspect, who was seized Tuesday in Mogadishu, the capital of neighboring Somalia, was not identified. Police gave no further details.

Fazul's whereabouts are unknown but until recently he was teaching at an Islamic school in the coastal district of Lamu, where he went by the name of Abdul Karim.

Abdul Karim disappeared shortly after he married Amina, a local teenage girl, on Dec. 30.

Mohamed Kubwa, Amina's half-brother, has no doubts the young man is Fazul. Kubwa, who denies involvement in the attacks, has repeatedly been questioned by police in recent weeks. He was picked up Monday with his father, Kubwa Mohamed, and remained in custody Friday.

Police showed Mohamed Kubwa photos of other suspects in the 1998 attack. He said he had met two of them in Mombasa and called them Sheikh and Fahad.

Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan and Fahid Mohammed Ally Msalam have been indicted in the 1998 bombings and are fugitives. Both were born in Mombasa.

It was Abdul Karim's cell phone that led police to Kubwa and his relatives.

After tracing calls made to and from a phone that turned out to be the one Abdul Karim left with Amina, police questioned Mohamed Kubwa, his father and his sister, Swalha -- who ended up with the phone.

When Swalha had the phone, she received a number of international calls from unknown people speaking Arabic, Kubwa said.

Some of the calls were made by Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, sources said. Nabhan is one of eight suspects sought by police in the Nov. 28 attacks.

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