The Blog

Al Qaeda in Iraq's Leader Still on the Loose

3:01 PM, May 9, 2008 • By BILL ROGGIO
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As noted last night, reports of the capture of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al Masri must be tempered with healthy a dose of caution until the U.S. military can confirmed the news. This morning, the U.S. spokeswoman in northern Iraq said al Masri was not in the U.S. military's custody, nor has he been detained by Iraqi troops.

It certainly was tempting to believe al Masri was captured. The location of his reported capture fit the storyline from Iraq over the past several months. Fourteen of the 30 senior-most al Qaeda leaders that have been killed or captured over the past three months were killed or captured in Mosul. The city is al Qaeda's last urban stronghold and sits at the end of the last operational ratline into Syria. Al Masri's father-in-law was captured in Mosul in September 2006.

While the latest false report of al Masri's capture/death is another black eye on the Iraqi security forces' communications department, the event highlights the Iraq military's increasing role in taking on security operations in Iraq. Iraqi commandos conducted the raid on the hideout believed to have been occupied by al Masri. The intelligence used in the operation was Iraqi-derived. U.S. forces were behind the death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the infamous, brutal leader of al Qaeda in Iraq in the summer of 2006. It would be fitting if Iraqi troops took down Zarqawi's successor, who came close to uniting the Sunni insurgency and splitting the Iraqi nation.