Al Qaeda in Iraq Leader Wounded, Deputy Killed

The number two man in al Qaeda in Iraq has been killed. Again.

The leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has been wounded and his top aide killed in a clash with police, an Iraqi Interior Ministry spokesman told CNN Thursday. Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Khalaf said Iraqi police got into a firefight with insurgents on the road between Falluja, west of Baghdad, and Samarra, north of Baghdad, and wounded Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Abu Abdullah al-Majamiai, al-Masri’s top aide, was killed, he said. (Watch how an Iraqi minister described the firefight Video)

The group was trying to enter the town of Balad, Khalaf said. Khalaf said Iraqi police have the body of al-Majamiai.

CNN could not independently confirm the report and CNN’s Michael Ware in Baghdad said Iraqi officials would not say whether al-Masri was in custody. The U.S. military — who wrongly reported last October that al-Masri had been killed — referred reporters to the Iraqi government.

Al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, is an Egyptian who took over the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq in June after the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The tactical and strategic result will likely be, as in the seemingly dozens of previous times we’ve killed a top leader of al Qaeda, virtually nil. Still, killing them has a moderate boost in morale and can’t be a bad thing, presuming it’s done without killing innocents or untoward damage to the infrastructure.

Presumably, there’s a finite supply of these people since, one would think, it would be difficult to be taken seriously in such a position prior to age twenty and, thus, it takes at least that long to grow one. Otherwise, though, it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of technical or tactical competence to murder hapless civilians in a marketplace.

UPDATE: Andrew Olmsted hopes this “indicates that the Iraqi police are improving in their ability to take on the insurgency.” Spook86 argues that Task Force 145 is closing in al Qaeda more generally.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. mark says:

    there’s a finite supply of these people

    My guess is exactly the opposite…it seems to me like every year there would be a whole new set of people coming of age and ready to take on a leadership role.

    It comes back to the key question I guess: are we killing them faster than they can make more?

  2. anjin-san says:

    Hey we got another #2! Can we declare victory and go home?

    >Presumably, there’s a finite supply of these people

    Why do you think that? How many enemies has Isreal killed in the last few decades? Funny. there always seems to be more to take their place.

    Actually, its not funny, because we are now going down the same bloody road that Isreal has traveled for so many years. No peace, no security, just more dead on both sides…

  3. LaurenceB says:

    I too would like to register an objection to “there is a finite number of these people”. While this statement is technically true (there’s a finite number of sum total of all people, right?) it encapsulates perfectly the wrong-headed thinking of those who insisted that Iraq needed to be engaged as part of the GWOT.

    The fact of the matter is that the GWOT cannot be won by killing all of the terrorists until they are all dead. We will not stop terrorism by killing all of the terrorists. It simply does not work that way. I’m sorry – I wish it were that easy too – but reality is reality.

    The best way to fight the GWOT is to try and keep people from becoming terrorists. In that, the Bush Administration has failed miserably. Since 9/11, pro-American foreigners have become anti-American, moderate Arabs have become extremist Arabs, and Muslims who held strong anti-Western convictions but were otherwise not engaged in violence have become terrorists.

    Killing terrorists is fine and good. But it is not true that there is a “finite number” of terrorists that can someday be exhausted – at least in any meaningful sense.

    I’m happy to hear a terrorist is dead, but I’ll be much more happy to hear Guantanamo is no more. That will be a blow against terrorism.

  4. Anderson says:

    Otherwise, though, it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of technical or tactical competence to murder hapless civilians in a marketplace.

    Word.

  5. Barry says:

    I’ll skip the ‘finite supply’ comment; it’s been dealt with.

    James: “Otherwise, though, it doesn’t take an inordinate amount of technical or tactical competence to murder hapless civilians in a marketplace. ”

    Considering that Al Qaida + Baathists + Shiite leaders have decisively whipped US forces in Iraq, perhaps we shouldn’t be so foolish. Al Qaida waged and *won* a campaign to make sure that the US wouldn’t control Iraq.

  6. James Joyner says:

    Al Qaida + Baathists + Shiite leaders have decisively whipped US forces in Iraq

    Not by a long shot. What they have done, though, is make it very difficult for ordinary Iraqis to conduct their daily lives and for their infrastructure to get repaired and upgraded.

    Al Qaida waged and *won* a campaign to make sure that the US wouldn’t control Iraq.

    They haven’t won until we give up. Still, that’s the very nature of asymmetrical warfare. Guerrillas and terrorists can attack soft targets and wreak havok while counterintersurgency is a slow, laborious process. That’s not a function of great military prowess, just the nature of the enterprises.