By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service
July 18, 2007 – A captured al Qaeda in Iraq leader has admitted the network's followers have been duped into following the direction of foreign leaders, not Iraqis, a military spokesman in Baghdad said today. Coalition forces captured Khalid Abdul Fatah Daud Mahmud al-Mashadani, thought to the most senior Iraqi in the al Qaeda in Iraq network, in Mosul on July 4, Army Brig. Gen. Kevin Bergner, a spokesman for Multinational Force Iraq, said.
Bergner said Mashadani is in coalition forces custody and providing "significant insights" into the al Qaeda in Iraq network.
Mashadani, who rose through the al Qaeda network ranks directing media and communications operations, helped create a virtual organization, called the Islamic State of Iraq, on the Web in 2006, Bergner said.
It turns out, Bergner said, that the organization is simply a front for foreign influence into al Qaeda in Iraq. Mashadani partnered with Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of al Qaeda in Iraq. The two went as far as creating a fictitious leader, Umar al Baghdadi, as a symbolic political head the ISI, whose role is played by an actor. This allowed the two to work in conjunction with foreign leaders to funnel direction to al Qaeda in Iraq, while its followers believed they were following the directions of Iraqi leaders.
"The rank-and-file Iraqis in (al Qaeda in Iraq) believed they were following the Iraqi al Baghdadi, but all the while they have actually been following the orders of the Egyptian Abu Ayub al Masri," Bergner said. "Mashadani has said in his own words that the Islamic State of Iraq should be free of foreign influence, but that is not the case."
In fact, Bergner said, Masri relies solely on the direction of foreign leaders and doesn't trust or seek the advice of Iraqis in the network.
"The disclosures of Mashadani show how (al Qaeda in Iraq) leaders misrepresent themselves and purposely deceive the Iraqi people and their own members," Bergner said. "ISI leaders cloak themselves in Iraqi nationalism, but in fact their purpose is to subjugate the Iraqi people under a foreign-led terrorist organization that wants to impose a Taliban-like ideology on Iraqis."
The capture is only one of the recent successes in the region as coalition and Iraqi forces increase the pressure on extremists throughout the country, Bergner said. In the past two weeks, coalition and Iraqi security forces have killed or captured nearly 50 key terrorists in the country, he said.
Forces have killed or captured 21 "special group" terrorists who are funded, trained, armed and directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Forces, Bergner said. Twenty-six al Qaeda terrorists have been killed or captured, he said.
Despite recent successes, Bergner conceded, it will likely get tougher before it gets easier for troops in Iraq, and there's still much work to do in eradicating the insurgents.
"The enemy is likely to try to re-capture the focus by conducting more spectacular attacks that kill innocent civilians. This is going to further test the courage and the commitment of the Iraqi people to resist sectarian strife and remain unified against the terrorists," Bergner said.
The general praised the Iraqi security forces for their response to recent attacks in Kirkuk and Amerli.
Three bombings killed more than 80 people July 16 in Kirkuk, in northern Iraq. More than 100 were killed in a bombing in Amerli last week.
"Our commanders report that the performance of Iraqi forces, particularly following the tragedies in Amerli and Kirkuk, has been very impressive. They have restored order and maintained calm and, in the case of Kirkuk, they pre-empted other bombings and detained some of those believed to have been involved in the attacks," Bergner said.