Abu Al-Masri, is also called Abu Hamza al-Muhajer. Whatever his name is, he took control of Al Qaeda in Iraq after an American missile killed the previous Al Qaeda boss there, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in June of 2006.
Since taking control of Al Qaeda in Iraq, if my count is right, Abu Ayyub al-Masri has been captured three times, including today's arrest, mortally wounded once, and killed three times.
According to various Iraqi officials.
This time, Iraqi officials say that Abu Ayyub al-Masri is already in American custody. Maybe, but "U.S. military officials could only say on the record they had nothing to confirm the report." ("Iraqis report capture of al Qaeda in Iraq leader" (CNN (May 8, 2008))
As CNN put it, "Iraqi officials have also misreported the deaths or capture of other high-ranking insurgents, Baathists or others, including al-Zarqawi before he was killed and Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the highest ranking former member of Saddam Hussein's regime still at large."
I could be wrong about this, but I've gotten the impression that officials in several parts of the world, including the Middle East, tend to report what they'd like to have happened as what actually happened. Iraq's leaders seem to have the same difficulty in distinguishing between desire and fact.
The Iraqi (state-run) press has already reported Abu Ayyub al-Masri capture. This time, the Iraqi officials may be right.
The American military is checking the reports out. Given how recently the arrest is supposed to have taken place, Abu Al-Masri could be in American custody, without the information having filtered up to the top brass yet.
Or, this could be another case of wishful thinking trumping hard fact.
If it's true, then Al Qaeda in Iraq is short a top leader - again. That's not good for Al Qaeda, but it would be good for Iraq - and for America, in the long run. If or when Iraq becomes a stable, prosperous, country, organizations like Al Qaeda will have lost another base of operations.
- "Iraqi army says Iraqi al-Qaida leader arrested"
Associated Press (May 8, 2008)
- " Leader of al-Qaida in Iraq arrested in Mosul, Iraqi defense ministry says"
International Herald Tribune (May 8, 2008)