al Qaeda in Iraq Leader al-Masri reported wounded; aide killed


Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

Reports are unconfirmed; US military is silent; aide may be the chief of al Qaeda’s security detail

Iraqi and Coalition forces may have gotten a lucky break in the hunt for the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. CNN is reporting, based on a source in the Iraqi Interior Ministry, that Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the successor to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been wounded in a firefight on a road somewhere between Fallujah and Samarra. Al-Masri and his security detail are said to have been entering the city of Balad. Al-Masri’s aide is identified as Abu Abdullah al-Majamiai. A military intelligence source has informed us al-Majamiai may be the head of al-Masri’s security detail, but this has not been confirmed.

Just last week, Task Force 145 captured a senior aide to al-Masri in Mahmoudiya. The aide said he met with al-Masri within 24 hours of his capture. As we noted at the time, the capture was a good indicator on the success for the hunt for al-Masri, and Task Force 145, the hunter-killer team of special operators, may be hot on his trail.

The region between Fallujah and Samarra has been a staging area for al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents for some time. The Muthanna Chemical complex and the Lake Thar Thar region have been the scene of pitched battles between the Coalition and insurgent forces. Last spring, over 200 suspected insurgents were detained, including ten members of Zarqawi’s Tawhid and Jihad terrorist organization.


Muthanna Complex. Click to Enlarge.

As we noted at the time, the Lake Thar Thar region, where the Muthanna complex is located in a region where Baathists have settled, and numerous weapons caches were prepositioned in anticipation of the current insurgency. This is an ideal location as it is strategically located near Baghdad, Samarra, Balad, Ramadi and Fallujah. The Jazeera desert region has been the focus of numerous Coalition and Iraqi Army operations over the past half year, and the Iraqi Army has begun to conduct independent operations in this area.

The initial report of al-Masri’s wounding has yet to be confirmed, and should be accepted with caution. The U.S. military has refused to comment of the incident. During the hunt for Zarqawi, there were numerous reports of close calls until he was finally bagged in Baqubah n June of 2006.

Al-Masri’s demise will be a major victory for the Coalition, both tactically and strategically. Al-Masri is a far more competent and dangerous leader than Zarqawi ever was. He has made significant progress in repairing the damage of Zarqawi’s brutal policies, as the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq and the courting of six tribes and small insurgent groups into his political front has proven. If al-Masri is captured, this will yield a treasure trove of intelligence on al Qaeda’s Iraq operations, as well as its interface to global al Qaeda.

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



  • Al-Masri’s Chief of Security Killed in Iraq?

    Bill Roggio’s sources believe the “aide” killed in a firefight which wounded Zarqawi’s successor, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, may have been his chief of security, though this is unconfirmed. Roggio recalls that one of al-Masri’s senior aides was captured last …

  • joe says:

    This would be great if true, Masri was definetly a more skilled politician and was working to mend fences with the other insurgent groups. If he was indeed captured then the iraqi interior ministry should learn to keep their traps shut! Announcing his wounding only helps the insurgents change locations and any plans in case Masri starts talking.

  • buck smith says:

    Great news, Bill! You have one small typo at the star of the last paragraph = “Zarqawi’s demise will be a major victory..” should be “Al-Masri’s demise will be a major victory..” And indeed it will 😉

  • al Qaeda big in custody?

    Allah’s been tracking the news. Catch up on all the latest. Ragnar and Rusty have more. Andrew Cochran approaches the news with caution: “I suggest waiting until U.S. forces in Iraq confirm this new report before breaking out the champagne.”…

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Fixed, and thanks Buck.

  • buck smith says:

    Your welcome, Bill. You showed admirable restraint not point out the typo in my post about your typo 😉 Thanks for everything you do, man. You are the best…

  • C-Low says:

    PJM’s Richard Miniter is claiming that the guy the Iraqis caught looked like Masri refused to identify himself and had his prints burnt off. All of that seems reasonable to me but then he claims that the Iraqis took a DNA sample and supposibly already received results not matching the DNA they had on file.
    That to me makes no sense? Is it even possible to run DNA that fast? Not to mention is the Iraqis capable of running DNA that fast or even at all?

  • lee says:

    Thanks for the timely info. You always keep me ahead of the media outlets. I wish that most Americans really understood what we are fighting. They wouldn’t whine over our limited losses if they put the larger Islamic push in its cultural and historical perspective. Our enemy has been doing this for 1400 years. They have no plans to stop and make peace with the non-muslims, no matter what we do. Tell the troops they are our heroes.

  • ECH says:

    Sorry, but there is no way that modern science has invented to do a DNA test that fast.

  • Now that’s not going to do the Dems any good…

  • Ken says:

    Hi Bill,
    I’m interested in your assessment of al-Masri as being more competent and dangerous than Zarqaqi. Not sure I agree, albeit mine is the perspective of someone a long way from western Iraq….
    Zarqawi was a terrorist, and he terrorised like very few other people have done before. He drove the UN from Iraq at a critical time in 2003, he blew up the golden dome, accelerating the sectarian strife now underway, and his penchant for decapitation reinforced in the minds of millions of westerners that Iraq was an ungovernable hellhole, and not a good place to invest in reconstruction.
    I’d say that makes him both dangerous and competent. Sure, he was never going to unite Iraq’s sunni population behind an AQ vision of the perfect Islamic state … but is al Masri going to do that?
    Keep up the excellent work, by the way – this site is required reading.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 02/16/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention.

  • ECH says:

    I agree with you about about Zarqawi.
    The entire playbook al-Qaeda has been using in Iraq to try to cause a civil war by suicide bombing Shia civilians was Zarqawi’s plan as he laid out to Bin Laden in the letter we intercepted all the way back to late 2003.
    By hitting the Shia he knew it would make them lose confidence in the government and back militias that would kill Sunnis. Zarqawi also knew this would cause the Sunnis to back the insurgency more and more out of fear of their own lives.
    Perhaps, Zarqawi wasn’t the best at keeping and making alliances, but in terms of coming up with the broad framework of how to beat the United States in Iraq and destabilize the country he figured that out very early on in the war.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I seem to have lost my very long comment I typed up last night…. So this will be brief.
    I actually agree with you Ken, and ECH. I’m just saying al-Masri is far more capable.
    Zarqawi was absolutely right that the Sunni-Shia civil war was AQ’s best option, and he executed this well.
    However, he failed to look beyond that. He alienated al-Qaeda’s natural base in Iraq: the Sunni tribes, particularly in Anbar. Also his acts of brutality, while good at terrorizing the West, turned large chunks of Iraqis against him. Zarqawi didn’t know the difference between being a terrorist and being a monster. His beheads played will with the depraved Zarqawiphyles, but disgusted many in the Muslim world. Even al-Qaeda central knew his actions were bad for their image (See the Attiya and Zawahiri letters). Al-Masri put a stop to this upon his rise to power.
    Also, Zarqawi refused to put an Iraqi face on the insurgency, and put his cronies in position. This is why Ansar al-Sunnah never merged with AQI. He alienated Sunni Islamist terrorist groups that didn’t tow his line. groups – they warred in Anbar and are still doing so today. He also refused to work with potential Shia allies and had to be forced to do this (again see the Attiya and Zawahiri letters.)
    Zarqawi understood the big picture, but was a poor manager of the on the ground situation in Iraq – the internal politics that were needed to establish the Islamic State, which al-Qaeda desires.
    Al-Masri is still fomenting Sunni-Shia violence, and yet is handling the political part quite well. That is why he is far more dangerous.

  • Sam says:

    I hope your sources are correct, Bill. Your credibility is on the line. Be careful.


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