On the 4th of July, coalition forces captured a terrorist named Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani . . . Mashhadani is believed to be the most senior Iraqi in the al Qaeda in Iraq network . . . Mashhadani co-founded a virtual organization in cyberspace called the Islamic State of Iraq, in 2006, as a new Iraqi pseudonym for [al Qaeda in Iraq]. The Islamic State of Iraq is the latest effort by al Qaeda to market itself and its goal of imposing a Taliban-like state on the Iraqi people. This is what we have learned or confirmed from Mashhadani's capture.
In his words, "The Islamic State of Iraq is a front organization that masks the foreign influence and leadership within al Qaeda in Iraq in an attempt to put an Iraqi face on the leadership of al Qaeda in Iraq."
To further this myth, al-Masri [Abu Ayyub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al Qaeda in Iraq] created a fictional political head of the Islamic State of Iraq known as Omar al-Baghdadi. Al-Baghdadi, who has never been seen, is actually an actor named Abu Abdullah al-Naima. Al-Masri maintains exclusive control over al-Naima as he acts the part of the fictitious al-Baghdadi character.
The Associated Press ran a story the same day reporting Gen. Bergner's statement:
In web postings, the Islamic State of Iraq has identified its leader as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, with al-Masri as minister of war. There are no known photos of al-Baghdadi.
Bergner said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Baghdadi is a "fictional role" created by al-Masri and that an actor is used for audio recordings of speeches posted on the Web.
OK, then. A flat assertion by the U.S. military that Baghdadi is a fake. But today comes an ABC News story by Christine Brouwer, and guess who she identifies as head of AQI? You guessed it. Reports ABC in "Al-Qaeda Offers Reward for Cartoonist's Death" [emphasis added]:
A group linked to al-Qaeda offered a cash reward Saturday to anyone who would kill a Swedish cartoonist for drawings deemed insulting to the Prophet Mohammed.
In a 31-minute audio statement posted on an Islamist Web site, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the extremist Islamic State in Iraq, offered $100,000 for artist Lars Vilks' murder. Al-Baghdadi also promised $50,000 for the killing of the editor-in-chief of the newspaper that printed Vilks' cartoon.
If ABC has evidence of Baghdadi's existence, it should pass it along. If not, it should stop unwittingly collaborating in al Qaeda's attempt to fool the world into thinking AQI is a home-grown operation.
BONUS COVERAGE: There is an ironic upside to the ABC story. In its opening line, it does identify AQI/Islamic State in Iraq as "a group linked to al-Qaeda." The New York Times and Washington Post continue to question the existence of such ties.
ASIDE: Iraqi names typically append a person's hometown at the end. Thus Saddam's full name was Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti, indicating that he was from Tikrit. So naming their bogus character Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was a clever way for al Qaeda to announce that he was indeed an Iraqi, from the capital no less.