Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Those Egyptians all look the same

This is the picture that appears with the Times (UK) story on the alleged death of "top al-Qaeda terrorist Abu Zubair al-Masri" in the US missile attack in Pakistan that also killed supposed liquid bomb plot mastermind Rashid Rauf.

There's at least one problem. That picture has previously circulated as being of Abu Ayyub al-Masri, whom the US military in Iraq has claimed is the "real" leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, and thus would have been nowhere near the similarly named individual in Pakistan. The only thing that the two different al-Masris have in common is the part of their name signifying Egyptian family links, but this is a feature possessed by many Egyptians -- albeit one that continues to make air travel difficult for the American air transport securocrats, always on the lookout for people named al-Masri.

Incidentally, the Iraqi terrorist al-Masri is something of a mystery, since the US only identified him as the head of AQI after declaring the apparent holder of that job, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, to be an imaginary figure. This came after two reports of the latter's death and one of his capture. So perhaps this picture is simply kept around as a handy random Islamo-dude to be put into play when the full truth about who was or wasn't killed in a particular strike is more awkward. Gotta keep everyone focused on their 100ml liquid bottles in a clear plastic bag.

UPDATE: A few more references. Here is an April 2008 US military press conference which mentions Abu Ayyub al-Masri as the AQI leader and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as fictional. Here is a recent press release which again refers to the AQI leadership position.

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