I’m skeptical, for two reasons.
The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, has been arrested, the Arabic television station al-Arabiya reported on Friday, quoting the Iraqi Defence Ministry.
Arabiya said Muhajir had been detained in a joint Iraqi-U.S. operation in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul. The U.S. military said it had no information on the reports at this stage.
Reason one: These reports of big scores trickle out periodically from the Iraqi government and they’re almost always wrong. The last sensational non-bust was of Saddam henchman turned insurgent leader Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri on April 23. The U.S. military insisted the next day that they didn’t have him and as far as I know that’s the last we’ve heard about it. Reason two: Al-Arabiya’s had a string of suspicious scoops lately in this vein, starting with the al-Douri story and then again just a few days ago vis-a-vis Omar al-Baghdadi, the supposed leader of the Islamic State of Iraq whom the U.S. insists is a fictional character. Arabiya begged to differ, claiming that his real name is Hamid Dawoud al-Zawi and airing a photo of him. Nothing’s come of that (yet) either. Now they’re telling us that al-Masri’s in the pen. The location sounds right — Mosul is one of the few hot spots left where it’s relatively safe for Sunni jihadis to operate — but I’m treating this as propaganda until we hear from our guys.
question coincidence that isn’t a coincidence: That Gitmo detainee who blew himself up in Iraq a few weeks ago was also operating in Mosul (as reported, once again, by Al-Arabiya). Remember how I predicted that his long history of jihadism would be whitewashed and his suicide bombing spun as a reaction to his imprisonment? Easy pickings.
Update: They’re confident enough to be running this on state TV. Hmmm.
[Iraqi spokesman] Mohammed al-Askari said the arrest of al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, was confirmed to him by the Iraqi commander of the province. There was no immediate confirmation or comment from U.S. forces.
He did not have any further details nor did he say when the al-Qaida leader was arrested. According to unconfirmed reports, however, he was caught Thursday evening in the Tayran area in central Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad. Mosul is currently a major battleground for U.S. forces and al-Qaida.
They caught him tonight and are already claiming it’s him for sure without a DNA test?
Update (Ed): As reader CJB says, how long before the media spins this into a victory — for Moqtada al-Sadr?
Update: The military and Interior Ministry are investigating.
Update: Roggio has worthwhile background on this turd, including the fact that he’s good pals with Ayman al-Zawahiri, second in command of that other Al Qaeda organization that has absolutely, positively no connection with the one in Iraq.