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|Police Hunt For Africa's Most Wanted|
Nairobi, May 17, 2003 (The Times) - Africa's most wanted terrorist was being hunted yesterday among hundreds of British holiday-makers in the Indian Ocean resort town of Mombasa in Kenya.
FBI agents and Kenyan detectives were mingling with the tourists, desperately searching for Fazul Abdullah Mohammed after he was spotted back in the country and preparing to strike.
He spent three months in the town last year planning the simultaneous attacks on the Paradise Hotel in Kikambala, near Mombasa, and a missile strike on an Israeli charter flight leaving Mombasa airport in November.
"He is truly one of our most wanted," one FBI agent said.
The FBI already had a $US 40 million ($63 million) bounty on Mohammed, whom it had indicted for masterminding the synchronized truck bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
Mohammed, who is said to have used more than 20 aliases, is believed to have left Kenya just after the bombings in 1998.
He has always been careful to plan his escape route. He headed first for his homeland, the Comoros Islands and, as FBI agents were trying to trace him there, he flew to Dubai. Since then he has moved easily around the Horn of Africa and neighbouring countries such as Kenya, where al-Qa'ida has been recruiting for a decade.
Early last year, an Islamic cleric took Mohammed to his family home in Siyu, a remote Kenyan town on an island near neighbouring Somalia. There Mohammed is said to have taught in an Islamic school and married the cleric's teenage daughter just weeks after the Mombasa attacks.
The cleric says Mohammed and his daughter disappeared in January.
His file in the FBI headquarters notes that he speaks French, Swahili, Arabic and English, and that he has the confidence, money and style to blend in to any society.
An al-Qa'ida informer is said to have warned the Kenyan authorities this week that the terrorist group's leader in Africa had returned to the scene of one of his crimes. The head of Kenya's anti-terrorist squad, Matthew Kabetu, said yesterday the terrorist leader had been spotted in Mombasa.
The authorities have been hunting him since the CIA snatched another known al-Qa'ida fighter in Somalia six weeks ago, while the world's attention was on Iraq.
The US reportedly paid a Somali warlord called Mohammed Dheere to snatch the al-Qa'ida suspect, known only as Issa, from the Red Cross Hospital in northern Mogadishu.
He was flown in secret to Kenya where, to the US's fury, the Government announced Issa's capture. The Yemen-born al-Qa'ida operative is alleged to have smuggled the missiles into Kenya for the November attack on the Israeli airliner.
US officials had been confident Osama bin Laden and al-Qa'ida's leadership were in no position to co-ordinate an operation such as the latest threat to bring down a British airliner in Kenya and the apparent campaign in Saudi Arabia.
One intelligence source said: "Mohammed would not carry out a sophisticated attack like this without some sort of sanction from the top. But it would be up to him to acquire the manpower and the weapons to be used, and to figure out the mechanics of the attack. He has proved he is a past master at this."