In early march 2008 the American forces operating in the horn of Africa launched two cruise missiles on a small Somali town. Different reports suggest that the target of the attack was Al Qaeda senior operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabahan, who was apparently killed during the attack. These incidents once again put the spot light on the activity of one of the oldest, most active and dangerous Al Qaeda cells operating in the international arena.
The East African cell is fully directed by Al Qaeda's leadership, mostly through its special operations unit, which is responsible for the external operations of Al Qaeda. Crystallized during the early 1990's, the cell is responsible for the execution of the first ever international attack of Al Qaeda (August 1998) against the American embassies of Nairobi and Dar Al Salaam, resulting in the death of 300 citizens and about 5000 people injured.
Later on (November 2002) this cell carried out a missile attack against an Israeli commercial aircraft (the missiles missed the ascending aircraft) combined with a suicide VEIBD against an Israeli owned hotel in the Kenyan city of Mombassa. The attack resulted in the deaths of 15 citizens, three of them Israelis.
The elimination of Nabahan, who played a major role in the Mombassa attack (he may have been the one who launched the missile towards the aircraft) is another major set back for the Al Qaeda East African cell. Since the Mombassa attack the cell's operational capabilities decreased significantly, partly due to internal disputes among its senior members, but mostly because it was fully exposed. All of its remaining activists became fugitives in the last few years, searching for shelter in the torn up neighboring country of Somalia.
Nevertheless, one should remember that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, the most senior operational activist of the cell and one of the most capable operational activists of Al Qaeda is still at large, and continues to pose a major threat to Western targets, first and foremost Israeli and American targets in the region.
Click here to view the infrastructure of the cell, as well as the current status of its activists.
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