al Qaeda in Iraq leader al-Masri capture reports incorrect

Abu Ayyub al-Masri, from a video found last year. Click to view.

Iraqis back off the claim, U.S. denies he is in custody, as does al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq

Last evening’s reports of the capture of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri appear to be incorrect. Brigadier General Abdul-Karim Khalaf, the spokesman for the Interior Ministry, initially reported al-Masri was wounded in a gunfight, and an aide was killed while trying to enter the city of Balad. Khalaf has since pulled back from this claim, while the deputy interior minister said the information could not be confirmed, as did the U.S. military. “We do not believe that he was either killed or wounded last night,” said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Garver, a MNF-Iraq spokesman.

The Islamic State of Iraq, al Qaeda in Iraq’s political front, has also denied that al-Masri was wounded or captured in an engagement [as an aside, this demonstrates the organization’s quick reaction time to the news cycle]. “The fabrication of the [Iraqi] government of such news – which was denied even by their American masters – is proof of their bankruptcy and confusion, may Allah fight them,” said the al Qaeda mouthpiece in an Internet posting, according to the SITE Institute.

Banner of the Islamic State of Iraq. Click to view.

Several questions remain about the episode: what, if anything, did happen outside of Balad? Was a senior al Qaeda leader detained? Was this an al-Masri body double? Richard Miniter reported there was a DNA test performed on the suspect wounded in the skirmish, indicating an event actually took place [although we dispute the claim a DNA test can be performed in such a rapid time frame].

The Associated Press provided some further information on the identity of the senior al-Masri aide captured on February 9th. “An Iraqi army officer also said al-Masri’s aide, identified as Abu Abdullah al-Majemaai, had been detained on Feb. 9 and remained in custody in a jail near Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad,” noted the AP. As we noted last evening, al-Majemaai (or al-Majamiai) may be the chief of al-Masri’s security detail. If al-Majemaai is in custody and is indeed al-Masri’s chief of security, the Coalition and Task Force 145 will have access to critical information on al-Masri’s personal security habits, travel details, safe houses and contacts. This may partially explain the interior ministry spokesman’s excitement over the incident in Balad.

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

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11 Comments

  • Cloned Poster says:

    Bill.
    Surely with the intel created when the USA funded AQ/Taliban to fight the Russians in Afghanistan, the US could crush AQ quite quickly?

  • Bill Roggio says:

    al_Qaeda and the Taliban didn’t exist during the Afghanistan war with the Soviets, but don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story.

  • doc99 says:

    That photo of al Masri looks a lot like Humpty Hump.

  • Captain America says:

    Sometimes misinformation can serve a useful purpose. Let’s face facts, if it’s not this week, it will be in the weeks to come. al Masri would look quite well in JDAM.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    Omar at ITM has a nice camera shot of a B-1 loitering over the Baghdad area.
    I will throw in a guess on what the B-1 is doing in central Iraq. It seems to be today’s mystery. First of all the B-1 carries a lot more fuel than a standard ground support aircraft and can loiter in an area for a lot longer. This technique is used extensively in Afghanistan. I imagine something was up. They were probably expecting contact with insurgents but didn’t know exactly when it was going to happen. There are other advantages to using a B-1. Since it can carry a large variety of munitions you can pretty much dial in what you want for whatever comes up. Another advantage is speed. It can go supersonic and get to a target area in minutes. If you happen to be above south Baghdad and something happens north of the city you can be there in minutes. A B-52 carries more fuel than a B-1 but can’t get to where it needs to be fast enough. Contact with the enemy may last only a few minutes. The last issue is vulnerability. You can use fewer choppers in the air for ground support if you augment an operation with a B-1. There not going to shoot down a B-1 with a hand held missile.
    The B-1 wasn’t really built for tactical support but has filled the need much better than expected in Afghanistan. I might add that there is a possibility that this one is capable of deploying reconnaissance drones.

  • Cloned Poster says:

    Well since Fallon and Pace are now on the same page, //thinkprogress.org/2007/02/13/centcom-fallon/
    I think that the Surge will be another damp squib.

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Neo
    A B52 can do 9NM per min. From Baghdad to Ramadi is 5 min. And a B52 carries more ordnance. A B1 would do suppersonic in extremis only, since that eats fuel. Recon assets deployed from B1 would be redundant.
    The only reason you are seeing a B1 instead of a B52 is that the heavy bomber det based at Diego Garcia is B1s vice B52s ATT.
    This is not the first time. It will not be the last. I am trying to figure out why people think that a B1 is a big deal…

  • Tim Solan says:

    Although the report on al-Masri proved to be inaccurate, progress against AQIZ continues.
    //www.mnf-iraq.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=9981&Itemid=128

  • Neo-andertal says:

    DJ, Thanks for the info on the B1.

  • Drazen Gemic says:

    Elliot, I think that B1 can carry about 50% heavier load of ordnance then B52. I’ve checked at globalsecurity.org.
    I don’t think that Masri is that important. When he gets killed they will find another lunatic. Masri is not Zarqawi, he is only good in managing suicide bombers and car bombs. Everybody can do that with enough money.
    DG

  • DJ Elliott says:

    Drazen Gemic
    Weight only.
    Bombays are smaller and configured for nuke dispenser and SRAM.
    B52 can carry more smaller conventional bombs than the B1, since B1 is not configured for and does not have the space or attachments for them.
    B1 was finaly certified for conventional ordanance in 2003. Was not designed for it.
    B52 was built when bomb size and weights were higher. And configured for conventional from the start.

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