Report: Al-Qaeda in Iraq chief now in Afghanistan
The top leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq has left the country for Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Thursday, citing named sources in both the Sunni militant group and the Iraqi military, reported dpa.
The report quoted the group's local leader in Fallujah, Abdullah al-Ansari, as saying in an interview with a Washington Post special correspondent that the group's national leader since 2006, an Egyptian known by the aliases Abu Hamza al-Muhajer or Abu Ayyub al- Masri, had departed Iraq and was now in Afghanistan, having transited through Iran. It was "not known yet" if his departure was permanent.
Other members of al-Qaeda in Iraq, who were interviewed and named by the Post, denied that he had fled Iraq but confirmed the chief's travels to Afghanistan for meetings, possibly even with global al- Qaeda terrorist network leader Osama bin Laden. US military and intelligence officials widely believe bin Laden is hiding in Pakistan's border regions with Afghanistan.
The newspaper also cited an Iraqi intelligence officer in Anbar province, Colonel Hatim Abdullah, as saying based on interrogations of suspected members of al-Qaeda in Iraq that al-Masri had left the country in June.
The Post cited a top US military intelligence official in Iraq, Brigadier General Brian Keller, as saying that al-Qaeda was believed to be reevaluating the war in Iraq - where the group has been badly hurt in the last two years. He refused to confirm that al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders had fled the country.