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News, documents and analysis on violent extremism

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

Harun Fazul in Somalia

The recent U.S. air strikes in Somalia were targeting, among other people, Harun Fazul (Fazul Abdullah Mohammed), one of al Qaeda's original Somalia team back in the 1990s. According to al Qaeda lore, Fazul's team was involved in the Black Hawk Down incident in some way, most likely training Somali tribesmen who did the actual shooting in how to use and modify rocket-propelled grenades.

Most widely known simply as "Harun," Fazul was personally trained by the ubiquitous Ali Mohamed, who may also have gone to Somalia (though sources differ on this point). Harun had a direct line to bin Laden himself, but more routinely reported to Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden's personal secretary, before El-Hage was arrested by the U.S.

He's a high-level, long-haul al Qaeda trainer and fixer. A native African, Harun went through the camps (al Sadeek and probably Al Farook) in Afghanistan during the early 1990s, then became a central figure (possibly the central figure) in bin Laden's East African network.

Harun was tied to numerous al Qaeda business and charity fronts prior to 9/11, and like many high-level members, he was proficient at obtaining and producing forged documents. He is also an accomplished bomb-builder and was involved in building the Nairobi embassy bomb in 1998. The bombers stayed at his house while preparing the attack.

Harun is also reportedly a good typist. It takes all kinds of skills to get ahead in al Qaeda.

UPDATE 3:37 p.m.: Early reports are that Harun was killed in the U.S. airstrike. We'll see how those hold up over time. UPDATE 1/11/2007: Not very well, as it turns out. The Pentagon has denied Harun was killed.

Another target is Abu Talha al Sudani, a Sudanese al Qaeda member of long standing, who is reportedly an expert in mortars. If you were looking for someone in al Qaeda to pin the Black Hawk Down incident on, Abu Talha would be your man.

Curiously, one of al Qaeda's operatives in Somalia during the early 1990s was known as Mukhtar, which was a code name for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. While not unheard of, Mukhtar is a relatively uncommon nom de guerre in the documented ranks of al Qaeda. However, it's difficult to speculate further with any kind of assurance, given the current state of the sources.


Views expressed on INTELWIRE are those of the author alone.



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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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