The hunt for Zarqawi continues, while the Iraqi government moves forward in establishing the transitional government. Raids are being conducted in the town of Ramadi, and reports indicate US and Iraqi forces have sealed exits to the city. Meanwhile a Ramadi hospital is searched based on intelligence that Zarqawi was there. The search came up empty handed.
Dan Darling, terrorism analyst, the blogosphere's terrorologist and fellow Winds of Change team member, reports on the intelligence information recovered from Zarqawi's laptop. According to Mr. Darling, Zarqawi is using PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) encryption, which apparently can be cracked (with much effort) by the super-secretive National Security Agency and may provide detailed information on Zarqawi's communications with al Qaeda. Pornographic images also have been recovered on the laptop. Zarqawi may be using this images for steganography, the method of encoding messages within images, but the choice of photographs is telling none the less. It seems Zarqawi isn't the devout Muslim he makes himself out to be. Dan also reports that the laptop contains photos of Zarqawi, financial information, details of his arrangements with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, both inside and outside of Iraq, and details on his health conditions. All of this information will be useful in tracing al Qaeda's network in Iraq and elsewhere, and Zarqawi's extensive network within Europe.
The Christian Science Monitor has an excellent report on the captured laptop, and confirms several of Dan's findings. The status of Zarqawi's health is of particular interest; "Among other things, it may indicate that Zarqawi is in worse physical condition than previously believed and taking painkillers as he recovers from a wound to his stomach." His reported medical condition makes the cordoning of Ramadi and the raid on the hospital quite understandable.
"He's becoming the new bin Laden. He's the man out there carrying out attacks on Americans every day while bin Laden, who is heavily pressured and having difficulty communicating on a regular basis, is in the shadows and becoming more of a symbolic figure," said former CIA counterterrorism director Vincent Cannistraro
The data in his computer reveals Zarqawi is directing scores of fanatics from Yemen, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states who volunteered for "martyrdom" missions in Iraq and other countries, sources said.
"The information has given us new insight into the scope of his operations outside of Iraq that we did not know about previously," said a U.S. intelligence official familiar with the analysis.
The Iraqi transitional cabinet has been selected, and while some cabinet portfolios positions are temporary until political compromises are made (the ministries of oil, defense, electricity, industry and human rights are temporary posts at the moment), the Iraqi government can now move forward with creating a constitution and directing the fight against the insurgency.
The insurgents and terrorists continue to shift attacks from American forces to Iraqi security personnel in a desperate attempt to thwart Iraqi's freedom:
Major-General Mohsen Abed al-Sadah, who worked in the interior ministry's intelligence department, was shot dead outside his home in southwest Baghdad, ministry sources said.
Another ministry employee, Lieutenant Colonel Alaa Khalil Ibrahim, was shot dead as he drove to work, the sources said.
North of Baghdad, in Saddam's former hometown of Tikrit, a suicide car bomber targeted police headquarters, killing two Iraqi National Guards and wounding 14, hospital officials said. The U.S. military said three American soldiers were among those wounded.
South of Tikrit, a bomb placed on a motorcycle killed two police officers and wounded five near the town of Samarra.
It is no coincidence Zarqawi's rise in al Qaeda coincides with the establishment of the transitional Iraqi government, underlying the fact that Iraq is the premier battlefield in the Global War on Terror. Al Qaeda has declared democracy in Iraq must be stopped, and is pouring valuable resources into the country to fight it.
Zarqawi is the only al Qaeda commander that has reliably demonstrated the ability to maintain persistent operations against the Americans, and his capture or death would be a major blow to the prestige of al Qaeda. Iraq has given the United States the opportunity to gather intelligence on al Qaeda operations and draw them out into a fight on terms of our choosing, as well as promoting much needed political and cultural change in the heart of the Middle East.
Chester mulls over the possibility of bloggers assisting Iranians with gaining their freedom from the theocratic regime.
Blackfive says adios to "Sgt." Hasan Akbar, the "soldier" convicted of murdering soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division just prior to the invasion of Iraq. It disgusts me to refer to Akbar as either a Sergeant or a soldier, hence the quotes.
Quillnews reviews the much-mocked Bush-Abdullah handholding session and points out the finer aspects of the meeting.