A significant catch, though the general unwillingness in the West to engage in discussion about the Islamic teachings that underlie the jihad waged by al-Qaeda, other groups, and individuals only helps ensure there will be someone to take al-Iraqi’s place in the organization. But hopefully, his capture will yield actionable intelligence, including any documents and data found with him. From Agence France-Presse:
WASHINGTON – A top Al Qaeda commander who led operations in Afghanistan and plotted the assassination of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has been taken into US custody, the Pentagon said on Friday.
Abd Al Hadi Al Iraqi, who was taken to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba within the past week, was intercepted as he was trying to reach Iraq to manage Al Qaeda operations and possibly plot attacks against western targets outside Iraq, Pentagon spokesman Bryan
Whitman said al-Iraqi “was one of Al Qaeda’s highest ranking and senior operatives at the time of his detention.”
He was a key Al Qaeda commander in the late 1990s and from 2002 to 2004 was in charge of cross-border attacks against coalition forces, working directly with the Taliban, he said.
“He also in recent years was involved in plots to assassinate perceived opponents of Al Qaeda to include Pakistan President Musharraf as well as other officials,” he said.
Al-Iraqi was held by the CIA before being turned over to US military authorities, said Whitman.
A CIA spokesman said the interrogation methods it used in holding al-Iraqi “were legal, and thoroughly reviewed by our government to ensure they are in accordance with our laws and treaty obligations.”
“The information that CIA”s terrorist interrogation program has produced has prevented attacks and saved innocents lives,” said spokesman Paul Gimigliano.
President George W. Bush in September announced that all high value prisoners being held by the CIA at secret overseas detention centers had been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
A US intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said al-Iraqi was captured late last year, well after the president’s announcement, as part of a complex international organization.
“There were a lot of people who did a lot of hard work to make this operation a success,” the official said. “It’s not confined to the United States, but plainly US intelligence had a key role.”
The Pentagon and the CIA declined to comment on where al-Iraqi was captured or whether US forces were directly involved.
“At the time of his capture he was trying to return to his native country, Iraq, to manage Al Qaeda’s affairs and possibly focus on operations outside Iraq against western targets,” Whitman said.
“He was intercepted before he got there,” he said.
Whitman said al-Iraqi also met with Al Qaeda members in Iran, but would not say when.
A fact sheet released by the Pentagon said al-Iraqi believed that Al Qaeda members in Iran “should be doing more with the fight, including supporting efforts in Iraq and causing problems within Iran.”
As a senior Al Qaeda planner and operative, al-Iraqi “had fundamental responsibility for Al Qaeda operations in that whole stretch of the world as well as other responsibilities,” the intelligence official said.
“I would think of him in relation to the plot against Musharraf as someone who had a leadership or guiding role,” he said.
He was born in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul in 1961 and served in the Iraqi military before going to Afghanistan where he spent 15 years, it said.
Before the September 11, 2001 attacks, he was a member of the Al Qaeda military committee that oversaw terrorist and guerrilla operations and paramilitary training, according to the Pentagon.
He also was a member of a 10-member group of advisors to Osama bin Laden, and was known and trusted by the Al Qaeda leader and his deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the Pentagon said.
It said that at one point he was Zawahiri’s caretaker and that he interacted with top Al-Qaeda planners and decision makers such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Abu Faraj al-Libi, Hamza Rabi”a and Abd al-Rahman al Mujair.
More recently, he associated with leaders of other extremist groups allied with Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Taleban, it said.
He worked “directly with the Taliban to determine responsibility and lines of communication between Taliban and AlQaeda leaders in Afghanistan, specifically with regard to the targeting of US forces,” it said.