Sept. 14, 2009— -- A U.S. commando attack in Somalia has killed an al Qaeda operative who is on the FBI's list of most wanted terrorists, sources tell ABC News.
The dead terrorist, Saleh Ali Nabhan, is believed to have taken part in the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. He is also believed to have orchestrated the 2002 bombing of a resort hotel in Mombasa, Kenya, and a failed missile attack on an Israeli airliner leaving Mombasa airport.
Several sources tell ABC News at least one U.S. helicopter fired on a convoy carrying suspected al Qaeda targets in southern Somalia. An American official says a U.S. Navy ship was also nearby to monitor the situation and provide assistance if needed.
Ali Nabhan's death has not yet been officially confirmed, but sources tell ABC News that his body is now in U.S. custody.
Ali Nabhan, a 28-year-old Kenyan, is on the FBI's most wanted list for terrorist activities such as the resort and missile attacks as well as participation in the 1998 attack on the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
An internal U.S. government report described to ABC News details Ali Nabhan's efforts in Somalia as a top al Qaeda officer in East Africa. The report claims that Ali Nabhan ran training camps in Somalia for foreign fighters, including some Americans of Somali descent. Some of the graduates of these terror camps have been tied to attacks and threats around the globe, the report states.
According to one source, U.S. military helicopters attacked suspected al Qaeda elements traveling south of Mogadishu and killed all the occupants of the convoy. Initial reports say the U.S. choppers landed on the scene and took the bodies with them. Ali Nabhan's body was among the causalities, the source said.
A U.S. official confirms that Ali Nabhan's body was recovered by the attacking U.S. forces.
In recent years, the U.S. military has been involved in operations targeting terrorists who use Somalia as a base of refuge.
It is believed that Ali Nabhan was the target of an earlier U.S. military strike in March 2008 that involved the U.S. Navy's launch of two Tomahawk cruise missiles.
In January 2007, the U.S. conducted two airstrikes by C-130 gunships to target al Qaeda operatives involved in the 1998 embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. Those raids were conducted with the cooperation of Ethiopia. It is believed that a U.S. military team entered Somali territory after the strikes to assess the strike and to confirm the identities of the targets.
Somalia Is Refuge for Islamist Terrorists
In June 2007, a U.S. Navy ship fired its guns at Islamist fighters and foreign jihadists believed hiding in the Puntland region of Somalia.
The war-torn nation hasn't had a functioning government since 1991. The current Transitional Federal Government is battling al-Qaeda backed Islamist militant groups, the largest being Al Shabaab. U.S. officials have expressed concern over the country becoming a haven for terrorists, and have also admitted shipping weapons to the TFG to help the government survive.
During her African-tour last month Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reaffirmed U.S. support of the TFG "Certainly if Al Shabaab were to obtain a haven in Somalia which could then attract al Qaeda and other terrorists actors, it would be a threat to the United States."