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Somalia: Al Qaeda militant killed

Story Highlights

• Somali official: Militant who planned 1998 embassy bombings killed
• Fazul Abdullah Mohammed believed targeted on island off southern Somalia
• Witness says U.S. airstrikes in Somalia continue

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MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- A senior al Qaeda suspect wanted for bombing U.S. embassies in East Africa has been killed, a Somali official said Wednesday as witnesses said U.S forces launched a third day of airstrikes.

Also Wednesday, Somalia's Deputy Prime Minister said American troops were needed on the ground to root extremists from his troubled country, and he expected the troops soon.

The death of al Qaeda suspect Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was detailed in an American intelligence report passed on to the Somali authorities. Mohammed, one of the FBI's most wanted terrorists who has evaded capture for eight years, was allegedly harbored by a Somali Islamic movement that had challenged this country's Ethiopian-backed government for power.

"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, said. "One of the items they were claiming was that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is dead."

In Washington, a U.S. intelligence official said Tuesday the U.S. killed five to 10 people believed to be associated with al Qaeda. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the operation's sensitivity, said a small number of others present, perhaps four or five, were wounded. (Watch how al Qaeda operations in Somalia have put the government on high alert Video)

Mohammed, 32, joined al Qaeda in Afghanistan and trained there with Osama bin Laden, the terror network's leader, according to the transcript of an FBI interrogation of a known associate. He has a $5 million price on his head for allegedly planning the 1998 attacks on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 225 people.

He is also suspected of planning the car bombing of a beach resort in Kenya and the near simultaneous attempt to shoot down an Israeli airliner in 2002. Ten Kenyans and three Israelis were killed in the blast at the hotel. The missiles missed the airliner.

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.

Also Wednesday, at least four AC-130 gunship strikes took place around Ras Kamboni, the rugged area on the Somali coast a few miles from the Kenyan border that the U.S. also attacked Monday, a local resident who declined to give his name told two-way radio operator Doorane Adan Harere in Nairobi, Kenya.

On Tuesday, helicopter gunships attacked suspected al Qaeda fighters in the south, a day after U.S. forces staged airstrikes in the first offensive in the African country since 18 American soldiers were killed there in 1993, witnesses said. (Watch what is known about the airstrike Video)

The Ethiopian military provided the targeting information, a U.S. military official said on Wednesday. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity surrounding U.S. Special Operations missions.

Presidential chief of staff Hassan said at least three U.S. airstrikes have been launched since Monday and that more are likely. He also said local intelligence reports indicated Abdirahman Janaqow, one of the deputy leaders of the rival Islamic movement, had also been killed in the attack.

Somalia's Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Aideed said U.S. special forces are needed on the ground as government forces backed by Ethiopia are unable to capture the last remaining hideouts of suspected extremists.

No American troops are yet believed to be in Somalia, Aideed said, but covert operations on the ground may be under way.

Somalia's president said the U.S. attacks had his support.

So far at least 31 civilians, including a newlywed couple, have been killed in strikes, according to a Somali lawmaker. The report could not be independently verified.

In Mogadishu Wednesday, a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at Ethiopian troops in the south of the capital, but missed the target and hit a house, injuring two civilians, said Khadija Muhyadin. Four people were killed in a similar attack on Tuesday, doctors said.

U.S. Defense Department officials, speaking privately Tuesday in Washington because the department was not releasing the information, suggested the U.S. military was either planning or considering additional strikes in Somalia.

U.S. Defense Department officials said that, as of Tuesday, three other U.S. warships were conducting anti-terror operations off Somalia's coast.

Somali Islamic extremists are accused of sheltering the embassy bombing suspects, and American officials also want to make sure the militants will no longer pose a threat to Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government.

U.S. warships have been seeking to capture al Qaeda members thought to be fleeing since December 24, when Ethiopia's military invaded in support of the Somali government and drove the Islamic militia out of the capital and toward the Kenyan border.

In the capital, some said the attacks would increase anti-American sentiment in the largely Muslim country, where people are upset by the presence of troops from neighboring Ethiopia, which has a large Christian population.

Leaders of Somalia's Islamic movement have vowed from their hideouts to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war, and al Qaeda deputy chief has called on militants to carry out suicide attacks on Ethiopian troops.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other. The interim government was established in 2004.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is shown in a photo released by the FBI in October 2001 in Washington, D.C.

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