Abu Ayyub al-Masri

Abu Ayyub al-Masri

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Abu Ayyub al-Masri (born ca. 1968 – died April 18, 2010), also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir ( ; translation: "Father of Hamza the immigrant") and other aliases (see Real Name), was an active combattant of al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda
Al-Qaeda is a global broad-based militant Islamist terrorist organization founded by Osama bin Laden sometime between August 1988 and late 1989. It operates as a network comprising both a multinational, stateless army and a radical Sunni Muslim movement calling for global Jihad...

 and at least a senior aide to former leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Al-Qaeda in Iraq
Al-Qaeda in Iraq is a popular name for the Iraqi division of the international Salafi jihadi militant organization al-Qaeda. It is recognized as a part of the greater Iraqi insurgency....

, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi ; October 30, 1966 – June 7, 2006), born Ahmad Fadeel al-Nazal al-Khalayleh was a Jordanian militant Islamist who ran a paramilitary training camp in Afghanistan...

. 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
Iraqi insurgency
The Iraqi Resistance is composed of a diverse mix of militias, foreign fighters, all-Iraqi units or mixtures opposing the United States-led multinational force in Iraq and the post-2003 Iraqi government...

. 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 in a joint US-Iraqi operation on 18 April 2010.

Entry in militant groups


Born in Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, he joined the Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
The Society of the Muslim Brothers is the world's oldest and one of the largest Islamist parties, and is the largest political opposition organization in many Arab states. It was founded in 1928 in Egypt by the Islamic scholar and schoolteacher Hassan al-Banna and by the late 1940s had an...

 and, according to General Caldwell, joined Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman al-Zawahiri
Ayman Mohammed Rabie al-Zawahiri is an Egyptian physician, Islamic theologian and current leader of al-Qaeda. He was previously the second and last "emir" of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, having succeeded Abbud al-Zumar in the latter role when Egyptian authorities sentenced al-Zumar to life...

’s Egyptian Islamic Jihad in 1982, where he "worked with Zawahiri." Al-Masri went to bin Laden’s al-Farouk camp in Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

 in 1999, where he became an expert with explosives, especially truck bombs and roadside bombs like those currently used in Iraq.

Marriage


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
Fallujah
Fallujah is a city in the Iraqi province of Al Anbar, located roughly west of Baghdad on the Euphrates. Fallujah dates from Babylonian times and was host to important Jewish academies for many centuries....

" [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
Abu Ghraib
The city of Abu Ghraib in the Baghdad Governorate of Iraq is located just west of Baghdad's city center, or northwest of Baghdad International Airport. It has a population of 189,000. The old road to Jordan passes through 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
Yusufiyah
Yusufiyah is a regional township in the country of Iraq, located in Baghdad Province, approximately 25 km southwest of the capital, Baghdad...

, Iraq, on 19 June 2006.

On 20 September 2006, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir claimed responsibility for personally killing Turkish hostage Murat Yuce
Murat Yuce
Murat Yuce was a Turkish engineer who worked for the Turkish company "Bilintur" on a U.S. army base in Iraq.He was kidnapped in Iraq in early August 2004 along with his colleague Aytullah Gezmen, during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. A video of Yuce's execution by shooting at the hand of Iraqi...

, 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


Abu Ayyub al-Masri was in the list of persons wanted
Wanted poster
A wanted poster is a poster distributed to let the public know of an alleged criminal whom authorities wish to apprehend. They will generally include either a picture of the alleged criminal when a photograph is available, or of a facial composite image produced by a police artist...

 by the Coalition armed forces and Iraqi authorities since 2005, or possibly earlier.

The Mujahideen Shura Council
Mujahideen Shura Council
The Mujahideen Shura Council was an umbrella organization of at least six Sunni Islamist groups taking part in the Iraqi insurgency: Tenzheem Qa'adah al-Jihad , Jeish al-Taiifa al-Mansoura, Katbiyan Ansar Al-Tawhid wal Sunnah, Saray al-Jihad Group, al-Ghuraba Brigades, and al-Ahwal Brigades.The...

, 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
National Security Advisor (United States)
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor , serves as the chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues...

 Stephen Hadley
Stephen Hadley
Stephen John Hadley was the 21st U.S. Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs , serving under President George W. Bush....

 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
Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi
Hamid Dawud Mohamed Khalil al Zawi, most commonly known as Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi , and also known as Abu Hamza al-Baghdadi and Abu Omar al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi, was the nom de guerre of the person purported to be the leader of the former Mujahideen Shura Council Hamid Dawud Mohamed...

'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 as killed during a US raid in Haditha
Haditha
Haditha is a city in the western Iraqi Al Anbar Governorate, about 240 km northwest of Baghdad. It is a farming town situated on the Euphrates River at . Its population of around 100,000 people is predominantly Sunni Muslim Arabs...

. 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.

Confirmed death


On 18 April 2010, Abu Ayyub al-Masri was killed in a joint American and Iraqi operation near Tikrit
Tikrit
Tikrit is a town in Iraq, located 140 km northwest of Baghdad on the Tigris river . The town, with an estimated population in 2002 of about 260,000 is the administrative center of the Salah ad Din Governorate.-Ancient times:...

, Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

. 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
Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi
Hamid Dawud Mohamed Khalil al Zawi, most commonly known as Abu Abdullah al-Rashid al-Baghdadi , and also known as Abu Hamza al-Baghdadi and Abu Omar al-Qurashi al-Baghdadi, was the nom de guerre of the person purported to be the leader of the former Mujahideen Shura Council Hamid Dawud Mohamed...

, 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
Nouri al-Maliki
Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Maliki , also known as Jawad al-Maliki or Abu Esraa, is the Prime Minister of Iraq and the secretary-general of the Islamic Dawa Party. Al-Maliki and his government succeeded the Iraqi Transitional Government. He is currently in his second term as Prime Minister...

 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
Islamic State of Iraq
The Islamic State of Iraq , is an umbrella organization of a number Iraqi insurgency groups established on October 15 2006.The group is composed of and supported by a variety of insurgency groups, including its predecessor, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda, Jeish al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba,...

 organisation was posted on a militant website early Sunday confirming the deaths of al-Masri and Al-Baghdadi. The ISI
Islamic State of Iraq
The Islamic State of Iraq , is an umbrella organization of a number Iraqi insurgency groups established on October 15 2006.The group is composed of and supported by a variety of insurgency groups, including its predecessor, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda, Jeish al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba,...

'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
Joe Biden
Joseph Robinette "Joe" Biden, Jr. is the 47th and current Vice President of the United States, serving under President Barack Obama...

 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.

On May 14, 2010 al-Nasser Lideen Illah Abu Suleiman ( ) replaced al-Masri as war minister of the Islamic State of Iraq
Islamic State of Iraq
The Islamic State of Iraq , is an umbrella organization of a number Iraqi insurgency groups established on October 15 2006.The group is composed of and supported by a variety of insurgency groups, including its predecessor, the Mujahideen Shura Council, Al-Qaeda, Jeish al-Fatiheen, Jund al-Sahaba,...

.

Real name


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
Muhajir
Muhajir or Mohajir is an Arabic word meaning immigrant. The Islamic calendar Hejira starts when Muhammad and his companions left Mecca for Medina in what is known as Hijra. They were called Muhajirun...

' means "immigrant", "emigrant" or "exile" in Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

, and is often used to refer to the group of the Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 and his followers who fled to Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

, in the episode known as Hijra
Hijra (Islam)
The Hijra is the migration or journey of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. Alternate spellings of this Arabic word are Hijrah, Hijrat or Hegira, the latter following the spelling rules of Latin.- Hijra of Muhammad :In September 622, warned of a plot to...

. This may indicate that 'Muhajir' is not from Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

, but rather a person who is an "exile" in his own land, as per the original meaning of muhajir. In the mid-2000s, 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
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

.

In 2006, Washington Post reported "Officials in Washington said Masri is also known –and equally unknown– by the name Yusif al-Dardiri ( )." Egyptian lawyer Montasser el-Zayat
Montasser el-Zayat
Montasser el-Zayat or Muntasir al-Zayyat is an Egyptian lawyer and author whose former clients, according to press reports, included Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya. He has written a book entitled Ayman al-Zawahiri as I Knew Him, which is strongly critical of al-Zawahiri. 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
Almasry Alyoum
Al-Masry Al-Youm is an Egyptian privately owned daily newspaper that was first published in June 2004. It is published in Arabic and has a website in both Arabic and English...

quoted the claim by Mamdouh Ismail
Mamdouh Ismail
Mamdouh Ismail is an Egyptian defence attorney and a former member of "the Jihad group" , who since the 1980s has represented various Egyptians accused of terrorism offences in Egypt...

, an Egyptian lawyer "known for defending Islamist groups," that "Sharif Hazaa ( ) , or Abu Ayyub al-Masri", has been in the Tura prison near Cairo for the past seven years. The BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

, 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."

Al-Masri's real name might have been Abdul-Monim al-Badawi ( ), according to a 2009 al-Qaeda statement describing the makeup of a new "War Cabinet."

See also


  • Khalid El-Masri
    Khalid El-Masri
    Khalid El-Masri is a German citizen who was kidnapped in the Republic of Macedonia, flown to Afghanistan, allegedly beaten, stripped, raped, and interrogated and tortured by the CIA for several months as a part of the War on Terror, and then released...