A Big Catch in Iraq

The U.S. military has announced that on July 4, it captured one of the top leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. Mashhadani is particularly significant because he was the highest ranking Iraqi in that organization.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner…told reporters that al-Mashhadani carried messages from bin Laden, and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, to the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
“There is a clear connection between al-Qaida in Iraq and al-Qaida senior leadership outside Iraq,” Bergner said.
He said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Qaida’s global leadership provides “directions, they continue to provide a focus for operations” and “they continue to flow foreign fighters into Iraq, foreign terrorists.”

This information about the purported leader of al Qaeda in Iraq was especially interesting:

In an effort to give al-Qaida an Iraqi face, Bergner said al-Mashhadani and al-Masri established a front organization known as the Islamic State of Iraq, which the general described as “a virtual organization in cyberspace.”
In Web postings, the Islamic State of Iraq has identified its leader as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, a name indicating Iraqi origin, with the Egyptian al-Masri as minister of war. There are no known photos of al-Baghdadi.
Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a “fictional role” created by al-Masri and that an actor with an Iraqi accent is used for audio recordings of speeches posted on the Web.
“In his words, the Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al-Qaida in Iraq in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq,” Bergner said.

To extract that information, you have to wade through a lot of prophylactic AP material–lest anyone get the wrong idea–about how irrelevant al Qaeda is to Iraq, according to “independent analysts,” “private analysts” and plain “analysts.” But the news is clearly good, and, as the intermediary between al-Masri and al Qaeda’s leadership, Mashhadani should be a prime source of intelligence.
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