BAGHDAD - The US command said Wednesday the
highest-ranking Iraqi in the leadership of al-Qaida in Iraq has been arrested,
adding that information from him indicates the group's foreign-based leadership
wields considerable influence over the Iraqi chapter.
An Iraqi woman takes photographs of demonstrators against the
escalating security problems in Baghdad. US forces have arrested a top
Iraqi militant who acted as a link between Al-Qaeda's Iraqi offshoot and
the global jihadist network's Saudi founder Osama bin Laden, the US
military has said.[AFP]
Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, also known as Abu Shahid,
was captured in Mosul on July 4, said Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a military
"Al-Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the al-Qaida in
Iraq network," Bergner said. He said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu
Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq.
Bergner said al-Mashhadani served as an intermediary between al-Masri and
Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri.
"In fact, communication between the senior al-Qaida leadership and al-Masri
frequently went through al-Mashhadani," Bergner said.
"Along with al-Masri, al-Mashhadani co-founded a virtual organization in
cyberspace called the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006," Bergner said. "The Islamic
State of Iraq is the latest efforts by al-Qaida to market itself and its goal of
imposing a Taliban-like state on the Iraqi people."
In Web postings, the Islamic State of Iraq has identified its leader as Abu
Omar al-Baghdadi, with al-Masri as minister of war. There are no known photos of
Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a
"fictional role" created by al-Masri and that an actor 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.
He said al-Mashhadani was a leader of the militant Ansar al-Sunnah group
before joining al-Qaida in Iraq 2 1/2 years ago. Al-Mashhadani served as the
al-Qaida media chief for Baghdad and then was appointed the media chief for the
Al-Qaida in Iraq was proclaimed in 2004 by Jordanian-born Abu Musab
al-Zarqawi, who led a group called Tawhid and Jihad, responsible for the
beheading of several foreign hostages, whose final moments were captured on
videotapes provided to Arab television stations.
Al-Zarqawi posted Web statements declaring his allegiance to bin Laden and
began using the name of al-Qaida in Iraq. Al-Zarqawi was killed in a US
airstrike in Diyala province in June 2006 and was replaced by al-Masri.
The degree of control and supervision between bin Laden's clique and the Iraq
branch has been the subject of debate, with some private analysts believing the
foreign-based leadership plays a minor role in day to day operations.
However, the US military has released captured letters from time to time,
suggesting the foreign-based leaders provide at least broad