The Arrest of Abu Musab al-Suri?

al-Suri.jpgReports from Pakistan indicate that senior al Qaeda operative Mustafa Setmariam Nasar, also known as Abu Musab al-Suri (the Syrian), has been arrested in a raid. Andrew Cochran has a roundup of links at The Counterterrorism Blog, including a profile by Evan Kohlmann and a discussion by The Investigative Project‘s Lorenzo Vidino on al-Suri’s relationship al Qaeda in Iraq commander Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Athena of Terrorism Unveiled has further background information, including a profile of al-Suri.

Al Suri has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, the Algerian Armed Islamic Group (GIA), the Taliban, al Qaeda, the European Tawhid network and Jund al-Sham, which morphed into Ansar al-Islam. He was an early suspect in the Madrid 3/11 bombings. He was responsible for developing al Qaeda’s chemical weapons program in Afghanistan and ran a terrorist training camp to school operatives in the uses of such weapons.

Pakistan is often accused of being a less than reliable ally in the War on Terror, and has been accused of staging high profile arrests at opportune times to “prove” they are in our camp. Pakistan’s reluctance to dismantle al Qaeda affiliate Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) gives Pakistan’s critics good reason to question their commitment. One thing is clear: Pakistan, along with Iran, is a major hub for al Qaeda’s operational commanders.

But the arrest or deaths of high profile al Qaeda commanders such as Khalid Sheihk Mohammed, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh, Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani and Amjad Hussain Farooqi, along with over 700 al Qaeda operatives cannot be discounted. These are senior, experienced, well connected leaders, many of whom are directly related to the planning of 9/11 and other al Qaeda led attacks worldwide.

The arrest of al-Suri, if true, is a welcome development in the War on Terror. There is no word on whether laptops, data storage, notebooks or other data storage devices pertaining to al Qaeda’s operations were seized. If he can be cracked, he can possibly divulge intimate knowledge on al Qaeda’s WMD programs as well as its networks throughout Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

34 Comments

  • desert rat says:

    Better than good news. Another one, as they say, bites the dust. Seems from his profile to have been around for a while, a real Veteran. As to actionable intelligence garnered with his capture, doubt if he was naked when he was caught, he could well be now, though.

  • Justin Capone says:

    It is very good news, Abu Musab al-Suri is one of the old guard, who probably has more operational info on al-Qaeda then almost anyone.
    The media won’t pay attention though unless the capture is one of the big three who they know the names of.
    The media is hurting support for the War on Terror more then anything because they have lost interest in it other then the casulties. They have forgotten entirely why we are fighting and what it means if we lose.

  • blert says:

    This is BIG. Snagging such a player equates to winning a carrier battle: many consequences to follow.
    Just outstanding news. Outstanding in everyway.

  • Cruiser says:

    Bill wrote: “One thing is clear: Pakistan, along with Iran, is a major hub for al Qaeda’s operational commanders.
    The fact that high level leaders keep being found in Pakistan is evidence that they think they are safer there than anywhere else.
    I think this is both a good and a bad sign. It is a bad sign because they probably have good reason to believe that the Pak. government is not trying real hard to find them (I suspect many of these captures are the result of U.S. signals intelligence that, once provided by the U.S., the Paks have little choice but to act upon, though they would rather not). The good news is that they feel most safe in a place where many of their high level leaders have been capturered or killed – which means that they might feel very unsafe everywhere else.

  • MG says:

    A question for the audience:
    SUPPOSE: You are confident you have the “big three” located and contained. You can also intercept and decode (and potentially modify) their electronic communications with the rest of the world.
    QUESTION: Do you “roll-up” the big three, and reap the political rewards, or do you keep the big three intact, thereby maintaining visibility over some of their communications?
    I’ll take my answer off the air…
    MG

  • Justin Capone says:

    MG,
    Considering this is a public opinion war as much as it is a war on the battle field you clearly should roll them up.
    Zarqawi or Bin Laden doesn’t likely order most of the violence attributed to them. They have operatives around the world for that many of which act without offical order from the top.

  • GK says:

    Whose picture is that. That isn’t al-Suri, is it? It certainly doesn’t look like an Islamist.

  • Jimbo says:

    That is Suri..

  • GK says:

    MG,
    I say roll them up one at a time, at opportune times. Maybe one per year and strategic times, to keep the public motivated for 3 years..

  • John Hinderaker says:

    MG

    I say roll them all up at once..

  • GK says:

    That is Suri??!!??
    He looks like a white Republican guy from the midwest, who goes to Nascar races and football games! He could change his name to John Smith and blend in just about anywhere in America!
    He looks nothing like Saudis, Iraqis, Egyptians, or Pakistanis. It appears that the whiteness of Syrians is a weapon they could easily use to establish cells in the US..

  • Cruiser says:

    I think at this point in the war you have to roll them up. The longer they evade capture the more they inspire their followers because they seem to have divine protection (which confirms to their followers that they are “on a mission from god”).
    Also, the failure to capture or kill has a demoralizing effect on our side.

  • ikez78 says:

    Any word one those al Qaeda guys who got away the other day in Indonesia?

  • GJ says:

    al-Suri has extensive ties to the Muslim Brotherhood
    This point is something Very Few seem to want to explore. All we hear about is Al-Qaeida, and absolutely nothing else. It was This Brotherhood that had influence with bin Laden, namely, Al Zawahiri, a part of the Brotherhood. It is narrow-minded to think Al-Qaeida is our Only enemy. It is just a stem of the tree. It appears the Brotherhood is more the root than any other. They were started around the 1920’s and permeated throughout the Middle East from Egypt. It has now permeated throughout the world. THIS is where our efforts must be directed to.

  • sdh says:

    If you spend anytime at all in the Middle East or regularly interact with Arabs from the Mediterranean region, you find out that many of them look quite European, especially some of the women. That is to say, they don’t look like Bedouins or the darker skinned Arabs which we are accustomed to seeing in the media in the US. Working in the Middle East, I have met mnay locals who could easily pass for White Europeans from any number of Mediterraen countries or Eastern Europe or as Latin American.

  • Danny Thomas says:

    Like my daughter Marlo.

  • MG says:

    Re: al-Suri’s complexion
    To the extent that the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” is helpful, there is a scene in which Lawrence is captured by the Turks, and the Turkish general who interrogates him is satisfied with Lawrence’s (false) claim to be a “Circassian”.
    From dictionary.com: “A historical region of southwest Russia on the northeast coast of the Black Sea north of the Caucasus Mountains.”
    I am not clear why many of you regard the domestic political situation as being so dire as to roll-up the “big three”. Then again, I don’t have a television, and regard most of the established media as being full of traitorous bast*rds.
    Personally, I would prefer to remain “jacked in” to their information network to glean whatever intel I can. If I roll up the chiefs, someone else (whose identity and location I may not know) becomes the new chief, and will be smart enough to operate from the shadows.
    The reason I pose the question is because part of the “Fourth generation” warfare business is very much like running espionage and counter-espionage networks.
    MG

  • MG says:

    PS:
    It occurs to me that this:
    “Then again, I don’t have a television, and regard most of the established media as being full of traitorous bast*rds.”
    could easily mislead as to my intent. I am not accusing anyone of believing what they believe because they have a television, or don’t believe the established media is full of traitorous bast*rds.
    Rather, I am acknowledging that I am isolated from the day to day visuals that pass for “news”, and I am assuming that many of you have access to those visuals.
    Thanx,
    MG

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Placing optional characters in your curse words (*, @, $ and such) doesn’t make it any less vulgar.
    You guys are pushing it. Knock it off, you are wasting my time editing your childish comments.
    Make your point intelligently and respectfully or make it somewhere else.

  • Oded says:

    #16 Danny Thomas died in 1991

  • desert rat says:

    But St Judes live on, helping the sick and needy.
    In any case, of course you roll ’em up. They ARE the War. There will always be friction between the Cultures. It will ebb and flow as all things do, but the War on Terror, that is defineable and quantifiable. With a beginning and an end. aQ exists in the minds of those three, without their charisma aQ is just Border Bandits on a rampage.
    Stereotypes and prejudices will kill ya’ every time. Of course they look “just like US”. We are a nation of mongrols, not many pure blue bloods here in AZ. What or whom did Timmy McVeigh look like, anyway?
    Some of these folks are transnational, rich and sophisticated. There are contacts and safe houses from Baghdad to Boston and New Delhi to London. Hong Kong to La Paz. Not all are Gaza ghetto kids on a rampage.

  • MG says:

    Bill,
    I apologize. Wilco.
    MG

  • ricksamerican says:

    WELCOME JOHN HINDERAKER!
    I’ve been waiting three months for one of you excellent gentlemen to show up.
    How about a link?

  • GK says:

    It is not just skin color. Turks and Chechens are also white. It is attire and facial features.
    Look at his clothes, his overall posture and appearance. It seems hard to believe that his mind is occupied Islamic terror, 72 virgins, Wahabbiism, etc. At first glance, he looks more like someone preoccupied with beer, football, Nascar, Playboy Mag, etc.
    It is not that easy to have a mind filled with Al-Qaeda thoughts while still casually look like exactly those who you hope to kill. Even Mohammad Atta didn’t look like an adjusted Westerner, even if he pretended to be one..
    Indeed, if he dressed like that and looking like that, and walked around in Pakistan, he might be mistaken for a Westerner, and kidnapped and beheaded.

  • Boghie says:

    And I thought the picture was of our favorite individual in Iraq – Bill Roggio…
    I guess I was thinking too much…
    Too little…
    Be safe Bill, and give up the good stuff!

  • Justin Capone says:

    CBS News aired an interesting quote from al-Libbi (captured in May) who said “If I knew Zarqawi would be so active, I would have sworn my allegience to him rather then Osama Bin Laden”.

  • NooYawkah says:

    He looks quite a bit less Westernized in the video found here.

  • vuc says:

    Arabs are Caucasian people. Many are fair-skinned, especially in the areas around the Meditteraniean like Lebanon, Syria and North Africa. It’s surpring how so many people are surprised that this is the case. What is so surprising about the fact that the enemy is not always a swarthy Arab with black eyes like Zarqawi?
    The leader of the Iraqi insurgency Al-Douri is also very fair skinned and has reddish hair.
    //arabic.cnn.com/2003/middle_east/12/2/iraq.izzat/story.aldouri.izzat.jpg~1069853684170637300.jpg

  • Rob says:

    And in Afghanistan there are plenty
    of people with fair skin. Put a pakoli
    hat on me and let my beard grow and I could
    pass. Its a big world out there and our
    friends come in all sizes and looks and
    the Salafists the same.
    On the other hand I believe in profiling;
    you gotta start somewheres.

  • blert says:

    I must call attention to the fact that he was nabbed in Baluchistan. I’ve posted for over a year that this is where AQ is hiding.
    The rest of the outfit is on the Iranian side of the border.
    Baluchistan is Sunni, and like Kurdistan a proto-nation;half in Iran, half in Pakistan. Neither Tehran nor Islamabad has ever had strong control of this area. This is some of the most arid land on earth. Lots of space with no people. The perfect hole-in-the-wall-gang setup. Certainly, no accidental tourists.
    Traversing this land virtually destroyed Alexander the Great: thirst. The British built the railroad there. Biggest money pit the Empire ever knew.
    Pakistan is hard put to get a handle on AQ in its half because the national government has never had a big footprint there.
    Bush & Co have repeatedly stated that protecting AQ means war. The Iranians get the picture: their stock market is in freefall.
    The Iraqi Army did not put up much resistance in
    2003. Can the mullahs have any confidence in their own army?
    Flash-over can happen at any time, now that the mullahs are pulling out the stops.

  • ikez78 says:

    //aawsat.com/english/news.asp?section=1&id=2472
    Allawi targeted for assassination by an Iraqi political party who was being influenced from a neighbor country. Iran? Syria? Jordan? Hmm…

  • C-Low says:

    MG
    I would say hold force and monitor. The reason being I think Ben Laden and especialy Zark are emotional and believe thier own hype. This is a weakness we can play on and keeping this advantage and the enemy force making continued mistakes and bad planning errors not to mention the Intell if we were able to monitor is worth more than a short term media hurah that wouldnt last more than a month at best. Also Bin Laden and Zark are not that important the lower ranks must be desimated first or we will just a next gen of radicals wiser from the previous gens mistakes. Besides if we rounded up the senior leaderhip tommorrow it would be immediatley followed by screams of victory and the war is over lets all go back to the confort zone that got us here, this would be disaterous and would put us back to the 80’s calm before the storm. This war must be finished total defeat of Radical Islam not Bin Laden or Zark is our objective at all cost. If we cant form a movement in the Muslim world to handle the 20% of thier population that are Radicals at some point in time we are going to have to deal with it, and unfortunatley we have a harder time identifying the Radicals from others and we due to this will be forced into taking a huge portion of the innocent and moderates with us in our campain. The Muslims must stand up and handle thier problem cuase when a US city is under a mushroom cloud and civians casualties are in the millions and millions more radiated vengence will be demanded and depending on who is the Pres at time will determine how many Muslim cities and monuments are raised to the ground under mushroom clouds and the Muslim religion in whole is banned as a Ideology like that of Nazism. I dont like the idea of that I am sure most of the west and of course the Muslim world dont like that reality but if we lose this attempt to form a muslim couter radicals movement the senerio above is a unfortunate inevitable reality.

  • J Aguilar says:

    He is a prime suspect in the Madrid 3/11 bombings.
    ??? The Judge and the Police pointed out two days ago that they don’t have any accusation against Mustafa Setmarian Nasar related to 3/11. Moreover, even his name does not appear in the 3/11 Investigation Summary.
    Who told the media that he was involved in this attack? Someone that needed some help in selling the Al Qaeda link now that new revelations downplay it?

  • Has abu-Musab al-Suri been captured?

    Bill Roggio and the Counterterrorism Blog provide coverage on the possible capture of Syrian al Qaeda operative abu-Musab al-Suri (and Terrorism Unveiled has more background info plus a profile of al-Suri).

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