Sunday, December 23, 2007

Who was Abu Maysara?

When he was captured in the battle of Falluja Nov. 29, 2004 he gave his name as Muhammad Wasim Abdullah Halabi. In his possession was a forged Ministry of Defense ID. He was sent to Badush prison near Mosul.

Prior to his capture he was seen as a notorious propagator of propaganda for AQ in Iraq, issuing press releases through the internet that carried great weight amongst the faithful.

Now he's dead.

But other than his stage name Abu Maysara and the other nom de guerre given to his Falluja captors what do we know about him?

Well, we've been told he was Syrian. Whether that means he was a Ba'athist loyal to Assad or an al Qaeda sympathizer loyal to bin Laden isn't clear. Very little background is available via open sources but using what little is known perhaps a few educated guesses can be made, with caveats of course.

Most agree he was aligned with al-Zarqawi. After Z-man learned the horrible truth about the virgins in 2006, Maysara's name popped up in various scuttlebutt about the likely successor, which tuned out to be the Egyptian al-Masri. [quick context check--Z-man was a Jordanian, al-Masri from Egypt, and Maysara from Syria, all of whom had a hand in the Golden Mosque bombing. Yet the Iraq conflict is nothing but a 'civil war'. Ahem.]

Syria has long turned a blind eye to the import of foreign fighters across its border into Iraq to fuel the insurgency, everyone knows this. The question is whether that blind eye is actually sighted. Perhaps it's not imprudent to question Maysara's roots as well. If indeed it turned out he had an association with a state intelligence apparatus that would certainly turn the concept of al Qaeda on its ear, at least the Iraqi franchise.

There's another mystery to ponder. Between Maysara's capture in 2004 and his prison escape in March 2007 the Coalition undoubtedly knew he was behind bars in Mosul, yet they kept quiet while internet statements in his name continued to spew out. Remember that embarrassing letter where al-Zawahiri chastised al-Zarqawi? It occurred in October 2005. AQ's official explanation was that the "Black House" had fabricated the letter, a response signed by Maysara. Yet he was in prison.

Admittedly it's sometimes hard to keep track of all the deception. The news release from the Jihad website admitting his death was published through Omar al-Baghdadi, apparently an Islamic zombie, who claimed Maysara was an adviser to kingpin al-Masri. Both sides are playing the game.

But please don't mistake this post for a rant designed to suggest US complicity in jihadist propaganda. On the contrary, when one considers the possible involvement of the Baath goon squad leader Izzat al-Douri the overall picture becomes a bit clearer. Perhaps the important victory here wasn't the actual death of this terrorist, but rather the death of his "good" name.

Off the beaten track, the WaPo link above mentioned that Maysara used the "YouSendIt" internet technology to defeat file size limitations in mass broadcasting large files such as beheading videos. YouSendIt is a Silicon Valley company run by, ironically, a guy named Khalid Shaikh. By all indications Mr. Shaikh isn't a terrorist helper and this is but a mere coincidence, but recent history suggests it's not a sin to question such a coincidence. Surely the FBI already has.

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