Counter-Terrorism: The African Bin Laden

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February 11, 2006: While much attention is given to the search for Osama bin Laden, there are other terrorist masterminds on the run, and being eagerly sought. For example, the leader of al Qaeda in East Africa, Harun Fazul (or Fazul Abdullah Mohammed), a native of the Comoro Island with dual citizenship in Kenya, is being hunted aggressively. One of the most wanted terrorists in the world (the US has put $5 million on his head), Fazul was a ringleader in the 1998 East African embassy bombings and other attacks in the region. In his early 30s, Fazul has been a member of al Qaeda since the early '90s.

Fazul has been laying low for some time, somewhere in East Africa. Well educated and technologically savvy, he is also apparently a "hip" character, easily able to move among secular types. This allows him to live under cover using false identity papers, and probably avoids the company of obviously religious Moslems.

He has apparently been spending his time building al Qaeda networks in the region. He is active in the recruiting and movement of personnel, leveraging ties to smugglers and pirates in the region, and probably has some authority over al Qaeda cells in Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Tanzania, and Yemen. Recent reports suggest that he is planning attacks against Western interests and friends across region. Among places mentioned are two well in the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles Islands and Mauritius, particularly tempting "soft" targets.

There are other possible targets in the Indian Ocean. France still owns Reunion and of course Britain controls Diego Garcia, a major base for the projection of Anglo-American power throughout the Indian Ocean. These are, of course, "harder" to hit. Despite that, even a relatively ineffective attack on either place might have great propaganda value.

 


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