Has the bin Laden raid resulted in the capture of an Iraqi terrorist?

Yesterday, in his Threat Matrix post, Killing bin Laden: the bigger prize, CJ noted that the data seized during the raid that killed the al Qaeda emir would likely lead to other raids in the near future to take down nodes of terror network. But the likelihood of obtaining actionable intel that led to an immediate raid (withing 24-36 hours) is low, contrary to what Strategy Page would have you believe.

Here is a claim by Strategy Page that a US raid in Baqubah, Iraq, was driven by intel obtained from the operation that killed bin Laden:

May 3, 2011: U.S. and Iraqi forces captured al Qaeda leader Mahmoud al Obiedi, and two of his key aides. This is believed one of the aftereffects of the raid on Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound on the 1st. In addition to the death of bin Laden, much data was seized, which was immediately gone over for leads to other prominent al Qaeda personnel.

First, Strategy Page doesn’t list its source for the Obiedi capture, but I’d bet plenty that it was Xinhua, the official press agency of the government of the People’s Republic of China. Here is a blurb on Obiedi from a Xinhua article that rounds up news in Iraq on May 3:

Also in the province, a joint U.S. and Iraqi force dropped by helicopters in the early hours of the day on houses at the al- Tahwilah area, some 10 km north of Baquba, and captured Mahmoud al- Obiedi, an al-Qaida leader and two of his lieutenants, the source said without giving further details.

The emphasis above is mine. Note that the spelling of the name of the Iraqi terrorist is identical at both sources; this is quite rare when Arabic names are Romanized (for instance Obiedi could easily be written as Ubiadi or some other derivative).

More importantly, note that the Xinhua report does not indicate that the Obeidi raid is believed to be linked to bin Laden. So where did Strategy Page get that piece of information? From a source in US intel? We don’t know because Strategy Page doesn’t tell us.

Second, technically the bin Laden operation took place early morning (1 AM) of May 2, while the Xinhua article was published sometime mid-day on May 3. This would give a window of 24-36 hours from US boots on the ground in Abbottabad, Pakistan, to sorting, opening and analyzing the files, to passing the information along to US forces in Iraq, to planning and executing a raid, to the news agency receiving and publishing the information. Does Strategy Page believe that US intelligence can unpack a high amount of data (eight hard drives and hundreds of CDs and other files were said to be recovered) in such a short amount of time, and then turn that intel around into actionable intelligence that leads to a special operations raid? Perhaps if this was Mission Impossible.

Third, what is Obiedi’s role in al Qaeda’s hierarchy? Is he a global al Qaeda operative or commander? A senior or local leader in al Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq? How was Obiedi linked to Osama bin Laden? Why was information about Obiedi in bin Laden’s files? Why was it so important to immediately target him? Again, we don’t know because Strategy Page doesn’t tell us.

As the old platitude goes, if something is too good to be true, it probably is.

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

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: ,


  • chizaram emenike says:

    it good that the wicked man is dead so that we can have rest in Nigeria

  • chizaram emenike says:

    . ‘I don’t understand the circumstances surrounding his killing, but I think it would have been better if he has was captured alive and tried so that he can tell his story to the world,’

  • jayc says:

    Bill, I am not puling the old “great minds think alike” crap, but I read that on Strategy Page and thought the same thing. In SP’s defence, their writers throw out a lot of good snippets about things happening around the globe, with a lot of spot-on analysis about the events at hand.
    You make some very valid points about both SP’s and Xinhua’s article. The amount of time between the Bin Laden and Obeidi operation is indeed critical. It is hard to believe that in that short itme, actionable intelligence could have been put to such use. However, and this is my thinking, perhaps the intel guys are playing a different card?
    It is well known in the “spook” community that information is put out on the streets which would cause panic to the organization or people you are targeting. Also, the info might be used to “flush them out.” Undoubtedly, many terrorists around the world are understandably shaken by the recent turn of events, and it would not be untoward to think that out intel community would take advantage of this situation by placing “disinformation” out there to see who bites.
    Historical case in point: after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the US Navy was desparate to find the Japanese Imperial Navy. Many people thought they would go back to Pearl Harbor, while some thought they would attack the American west coast. Admiral Chester Nimitz thought otherwise. He had the radio station at Midway broadcast a message stating their freshwater system was down. The Japanese bit on this, and gave him the inside knowledge that they were going to attack Midway.
    The results of that battle are still taught in the US Navy.
    Anyway, just my two cents worth.

  • madashell59 says:

    Not that I do not agree with your points. But, is it not possible that the UBL raid did uncover some recent communications that was sitting on a table. No need for searching it is right there. And they acted on it immediately. Would you say that if you had the information that you could act on it within 24hrs? or even less time? Since this war has a lot of “hit the mole” to it my guess is that the military has fined tuned themselves to be able to react very quickly to information. Maybe this is just wishful thinking.

  • DANNY says:

    We already know his story: he is a despicable terrorist who strove to kill innocents to try and make the world hate America and now he is in Hell because of it. End of story. No good story here, just a crying shame. And worse yet he said he did it all in the name of religion. Hey people wake up!

  • Mr T says:

    I would hope that as the US planned the OBL raid, they would realize the implications of that news and have some preemptive strikes planned at different Al Qaeda targets including this guy.
    While we always have some plans in place, it is difficult to pull the trigger with the right timing to maximize effectiveness while minimizing collateral damage. Knowing that some AQ’s may relocate upon hearing the news, maybe we planned this raid and others in connection with the OBL raid and not subsequent to it based on OBL intel. We just decided it was time to pull the trigger before they bug out on us.
    I hope to see many more soon.

  • setnaffa says:

    Who knows, maybe ObL had an org. chart on the wall?


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram