'New Zarqawi' has strong links to Al-Qaeda core: U.S.

Daily Star Egypt Staff
4 Min Read

WASHINGTON: An Egyptian militant pinpointed by the United States as the new leader of the Al-Qaeda network in Iraq after the death of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi has strong links to Osama bin Laden s leadership, the military said Friday Abu Ayyub Al-Masri met Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. air strike on Wednesday, at an Al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, according to Major General Bill Caldwell, a spokesman for Multi-National Forces in Iraq. The Egyptian set up the first Al-Qaeda cell in the Baghdad region in 2003 as U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq, Caldwell said told a Defense Department press briefing from Baghdad. They have continued a very close relationship since that time, Caldwell said. Zarqawi was among six people killed in an air attack on Wednesday on a safe house near the Iraqi city of Baquba. The death of the man that bin Laden had called Al-Qaeda s prince in Iraq has been widely hailed. According to experts, Al-Masri is probably an alias as it means father of the Egyptian. The U.S. military has already offered a $50,000 reward for information leading to Al-Masri s detention, calling him one of Zarqawi s most wanted associates. He was believed to have fled Fallujah with Zarqawi when U.S. forces laid siege to the city in late 2004, according to U.S. Central Command. Zarqawi, a Jordanian who achieved global notoriety for the beheading of foreign hostages and organizing attacks after the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, was killed in an air strike on a safe house near the Iraqi city of Baquba following a long hunt. U.S. military officials said more than 50 raids have been stage since the attack, partly based on information gained at the scene, and they have emphasized that Al-Qaeda remains a threat. President George W. Bush on Friday said he was thrilled that Zarqawi was brought to justice while emphasizing that I don t want the American people to think that a war is won with the death of one person. Caldwell said that much of the information held about Al-Masri s contacts with Al-Qaeda remained classified. But he confirmed that Al-Masri had been in contact with bin Laden s deputy Ayman Al-Zawahiri. He also gave other details about Al-Masri. What we do know about him, he s Egyptian born. We know that he and Zarqawi met each other at the Al-Faruq training camp in Afghanistan, probably some time in the early 2001-2002 time period. We know that Al-Masri came to Iraq before Zarqawi did, probably located somewhere around Baghdad area some time in around 2003, established probably the first Al-Qaeda in Iraq cell here in the Baghdad area. The spokesman added: We know he had communications with Zawahiri. Anything else beyond that would be in operational channels and probable not something we should talk about. But it s very clear that, you know, he had very close contacts with Zarqawi. AFP

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