Al-Masri the Egyptian falls
Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq was captured today in the northern city of Mosul according to the Iraqi ministry of defense. Al-Masri's life parallels that of al-Qaeda itself. Born an Egyptian he followed al-Qaeda's fortunes from the Middle East to Central Asia and back. According to US sources, Masri was born in 1967, "joined the Muslim Brotherhood, and in 1982 ... joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which later became part of al-Qaeda. He went to Afghanistan in 1999, where he became an explosives expert. In 2004 he was put in charge of al-Qaeda’s overseas networks, and in 2006 he succeeded al-Zarqawi as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq."
Intrestingly enough, Masri was captured in Mosul. Bill Roggio says Al Qaeda’s senior leadership was thought "to be attempting to regroup in Mosul. US and Iraqi forces have killed several key al Qaeda leaders in Mosul over the past several months". Mosul, you will recall, is the hub of one of the remaining al-Qaeda ratlines along the Euphrates. General Petraeus in testimony to Congress in early April, provided a interesting chart showing Mosul to be the hub of one of the remaining "ratlines" or infiltration routes stretching down from Syria. It was natural for al-Masri to be somewhere in the vicinity.
Bill Roggio says "Al Qaeda in Iraq's last major ratline into Syria spans westward from Mosul into Tal Afar and the crossing point at Sinjar. The terror group is waging a brutal campaign to prevent the Iraqi Army and US forces from securing the province."
Because of his broad involvement in al-Qaeda's international operations, al-Masri's capture would be a setback for al-Qaeda not only in Iraq, but to its overall organization. Reuters reports:
If confirmed, the arrest would be another blow for Sunni Islamist al Qaeda in Iraq, which has reeled under a wave of U.S. military operations in the past year. ... Now the American forces have taken him to identify him," Askari said.
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