Abu Ayyub al-Masri
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|Abu Ayyub al-Masri
أبو أيوب المصري
|Leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq|
12 June 2006 – 18 April 2010
|Preceded by||Abu Musab al-Zarqawi|
|Succeeded by||Abu Dua|
|Died||18 April 2010 (aged 41–42)
Thar-Thar, Salah ad Din Governorate, Iraq
|Commands||al-Qaeda in Iraq|
|Battles/wars||Civil war in Afghanistan (1996–2001)
Insurgency in Iraq
Abu Ayyub al-Masri ( pronunciation (help·info) AH-boo ah-YOOB al MAHSS-ree[needs IPA] أبو أيّوب المصري, ʾAbū ʾAyyūb al-Maṣrī ; translation: "Father of Ayyub the Egyptian") (ca. 1968 – 18 April 2010), also known as ( pronunciation (help·info) Abu Hamza al-Muhajir (أبو حمزة المهاجر ʾAbū Ḥamzah al-Muhāǧir; translation: "Father of Hamza the immigrant") and other aliases (see Real Name), was an active combatant of al-Qaeda and a senior aide to former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. When Zarqawi was killed in a U.S. airstrike on 7 June 2006, U.S. Pentagon sources identified al-Masri as among the prime candidates to assume direction of the Iraqi insurgency. On 12 June 2006, the al-Qaeda in Iraq website announced that al-Masri had been appointed the new leader of the insurgent group. He was killed during a raid on his house on 18 April 2010.
Entry in militant groups
Born in Egypt, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and, according to General Caldwell, joined Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1982, where he "worked with Zawahiri." Al-Masri went to bin Laden’s al-Farouk camp in Afghanistan in 1999, where he became an expert with explosives, especially truck bombs and roadside bombs like those currently used in Iraq.
Al-Masri entered Yemen using a fake passport under the name "Yussef Haddad Labib" and taught in village schools. He got married to Hasna, a native of Yemen, in the capital Sanaa in 1998 and they had three children. Hasna was arrested in the same April 18 operation in the Lake Tharthar area, south of Baghdad, in which her husband was killed. "I only found out that he was Abu Ayyub al-Masri after the death of Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi," Hasna subsequently stated, referring to the notorious Jordanian commander of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, who was killed in a 2006 US air raid and replaced by her husband. Hasna asserted that her husband had always been a "secretive character."
Move to Iraq
After the American invasion of Afghanistan, al-Masri went to Iraq via the United Arab Emirates, in 2002, according to the subsequent account given by his widow Hasna. He lived initially in Baghdad's Karrada, then in the Amiriya fainal, and then al-Jadida, where he took charge of al-Qaeda’s operations in the southern part of the country. The United States military said that Masri "helped draw other insurgent groups into al-Qaeda’s fold." DefenseLINK News reported that Masri "helped establish the Baghdad cell of al-Qaeda in early 2003". Soon after, he "worked the ‘rat line’ down the Euphrates River Valley supplying suicide bombers via Syria." After the US-led invasion, the family left Baghdad for Diyala to the north. Hasna related "The two-storey house where we were was hit in a US air raid. Then, one of the men was killed but my husband and I were able to escape to Fallujah" [the Sunni Arab town west of Baghdad that was at the time a bastion of the anti-US insurgency]. Al-Masri participated in the major 2004 battle of Fallujah. After US troops stormed the town in November 2004, the family moved again, this time to the town of Abu Ghraib, on the western outskirts of the capital, which subsequently infamous for its prison and the revelation of abuse of detainees by US guards there. In 2007, al-Masri and his family moved to the Lake Tharthar area. "We were changing houses the whole time, right up to his death," claimed Hasna.
A claim posted on an Islamic website said that Abu Hamza al-Muhajir personally killed two U.S. Army soldiers who disappeared after an ambush in Iraq on 16 June 2006, as a means of "making his presence felt." Their bodies were later found mutilated and booby-trapped in Yusufiyah, Iraq, on 19 June 2006.
On 20 September 2006, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir claimed responsibility for personally killing Turkish hostage Murat Yuce, whose execution was captured in a video first released in August 2004. Murat Yuce was killed with three gunshot wounds to the head. He had been kidnapped in late July 2004, along with Turk co-worker Aytullah Gezmen, who was released in September 2004 after having declared his repentance for having worked for the American side.
Rise to prominence
The Mujahideen Shura Council, which claims to speak for Tenzheem Qa'adah al-Jihad and other groups in Iraq, named Abu Hamza al-Muhajir as their new emir in June 2006. However, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley said, “It’s not clear at this point who is in (control). We’ve seen a number of different reports … In our view it’s not yet settled.” After al-Baghdadi's alleged capture by the American forces, on 7 March 2007, the media started reporting about al-Masri's standing in the insurgency and the video tape released to the media in which al-Masri proclaims al-Baghdadi was "the ruler of believers", with Iraqi Qaeda fighters under his command. Al-Masri, as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, was denoted as "al-Zarqawi's successor" by the Coalition and the Bush administration posted a bounty on him, later raised to $25 million.
In 2008, the bounty was reduced to $100,000, with Central Command spokesman Jamie Graybeal stating that "The current assessment, based on a number of factors, shows that [al-Masri] is not ... an effective leader of al Qaeda in Iraq as he was last year," although, as the spokesman stated, "for security reasons," he couldn't go into detail about the assessment. The reduction of reward money knocked al-Masri off the U.S. State Department "Rewards for Justice" program list and placed him on a Department of Defense list for people with lower bounties.
Reports of death
In October 2006, 'Abu Hamza al-Muhajir' was erroneously reported killed during a US raid in Haditha. In May 2007, 'Abu Ayyub al-Masri', "leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq", was erroneously reported as killed in an "internal battle between militants." The person killed was Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, a senior member of Al-Qaida in Iraq and the "public relations minister" of al-Baghdadi's shadow cabinet.
On April 18, 2010, Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in a joint American and Iraqi operation near Tikrit, Iraq. The coalition forces believed al-Masri to be wearing a suicide vest and proceeded cautiously. After the lengthy exchange of fire and bombing of the house, the Iraqi troops stormed inside and found two women still alive, one of whom was al-Masri's wife, and four dead men, identified as al-Masri, Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi, an assistant to al-Masri, and al-Baghdadi's son. A suicide vest was indeed found on al-Masri's corpse, as the Iraqi Army subsequently stated. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced the killings of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri at a news conference in Baghdad and showed reporters photographs of their bloody corpses. "The attack was carried out by ground forces which surrounded the house, and also through the use of missiles," Mr Maliki said. "During the operation computers were seized with e-mails and messages to the two biggest terrorists, Osama bin Laden and [his deputy] Ayman al-Zawahiri," Mr Maliki added. U.S. forces commander Gen. Raymond Odierno praised the operation. "The death of these terrorists is potentially the most significant blow to al-Qaeda in Iraq since the beginning of the insurgency," he said. "There is still work to do but this is a significant step forward in ridding Iraq of terrorists."
On April 25, 2010, a four-page announcement by the Islamic State of Iraq organisation was posted on a militant website early Sunday confirming the deaths of al-Masri and Al-Baghdadi. The ISI's shariah minister, Abu al-Walid Abd al-Wahhab al-Mashadani, stated in the announcement that the two leaders were attending a meeting when "enemy forces" engaged them in battle and launched an airstrike on their location. The announcement, in an apparent reference to the previous Friday's extensive bomb attacks, claimed that the "Crusaders and the Shi'ites will exploit the incident to improve the image of Iraqi security services and give the enemy alliance an 'illusory' victory after the mass-casualty incidents carried out by the ISI in Baghdad."
US Vice-President Joe Biden stated that the deaths of the top two al-Qaeda figures in Iraq are "potentially devastating" blows to the terror network there and proof that Iraqi security forces are gaining ground.
The real name of 'Abu Ayyub al-Masri' has still not been definitely established.
'Muhajir' is believed to be a nom de guerre, for certain. 'Muhajir' means "immigrant", "emigrant" or "exile" in Arabic, and is often used to refer to the group of the Prophet Muhammad and his followers who fled to Medina, in the episode known as Hijra. This may indicate that 'Muhajir' is not from Iraq, but rather a person who is an "exile" in his own land, as per the original meaning of muhajir. In the mid-2000s (decade), Zarqawi's group tried to establish a more "local" profile in Iraq, in an attempt to appeal to potential Iraqi recruits, and the name "Muhajir" may alternatively indicate an Iraqi Sunni Muslim who opposes Saddam Hussein.
In 2006, Washington Post reported "Officials in Washington said Masri is also known –and equally unknown– by the name Yusif al-Dardiri (يوسف الدرديري Yūsif ad-Dardīrī )." Egyptian lawyer Montasser el-Zayat, whose former clients, according to press reports, included Ayman al-Zawahiri, reportedly agrees that Abu Ayyub's real name is Yusif al-Dardiri. According to the Washington Post, other unidentified American and Jordanian officials also claim that al-Masri has been an alias of Yusuf al-Dardiri.
On 6 July 2006, according to an al-Jazeera report, the Egyptian newspaper Almasry Alyoum quoted the claim by Mamdouh Ismail, an Egyptian lawyer "known for defending Islamist groups," that "Sharif Hazaa (شريف هزاع Šarīf Hazāʿ) , or Abu Ayyub al-Masri", has been in the Tura prison near Cairo for the past seven years. The BBC, in a report filed directly by its Arab affairs analyst, reported the same claim of the Islamist lawyer. The lawyer was later arrested as a "suspect of financing the Al-Qaeda terror network in the region." Note that Ismail's claim quite exactly matches the known details of the imprisonment of Muhammad al-Zawahiri, Ayman's younger brother and an associate of both him and al-Masri.
Al-Masri's real name might have been Abdul-Monim al-Badawi (عبد المنعم البدوي ʿAbd ul-Munʿim al-Badawī ), according to a 2009 al-Qaeda statement describing the makeup of a new "War Cabinet."
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- Wanted Poster on al-Masri (in Arabic), US Department of State.
- Wanted Poster on al-Masri, US Department of State.
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