Sunday night, while listening to Liz Cheney and Debra Burlingame speak at a function in Los Angeles (the two co-founded Keep America Safe with Bill Kristol), I was reminded that al-Qaeda has two roots: one in Saudi Arabia from Osama bin Laden, and one in Egypt, from Ayman al-Zawahiri.
This made it particularly interesting to wake up on Monday morning to news of a major military success against al-Qaeda.
Most of the world now knows that U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces, in what is being touted as a joint operation, have killed the two most wanted men in Iraq: Abu Ayyub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi. While holding up gruesome photographs of the dead terrorists, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told reporters:
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.
Abu Ayyub al-Masri is an alias that translates as “the Egyptian.” He was allegedly hand-picked by Ayman al-Zawahiri and trained by Osam bin Laden to specialize in truck bombs. Before his death, he was considered the terrorists’ top military commander in Iraq, a position he took over in 2006 after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi met a similar fate by U.S. air strikes.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi translates along the lines of “the Faithful Prince of Baghdad.” He was the figurehead for the Islamic State of Iraq. Little else is known about al-Baghdadi. His death, as well as the death of al-Masri, had been incorrectly reported several times before by Prime Minister al-Maliki. Wafiq al-Samaraei, a former general in the Iraqi military intelligence services and a former advisor to the president, told Al Jazeera:
It is true we heard many allegations in the past about the capture of Baghdadi and or al-Masri but they were from the Iraqi side only and the U.S. Army in Iraq used to keep silent. … This time we have a U.S. confirmation.
Providing that confirmation was General David Petraeus:
These two extremist leaders were responsible for barbaric attacks that killed thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens and Iraqi and Coalition Security Force members. Their deaths constitute another major milestone in the effort to defeat extremism in Iraq.