Al-Waili on al-Baghdadi (Updated)
Shirwan al-Waili, Iraq’s State Minister for National Security and Maliki ally (…and potential replacement), fills in Al-Hayat Newspaper (London, Saudi-owned) today on some alleged biographical details concerning Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, or at the least the man the Iraqi authorities believe is al-Baghdadi.
First, the man’s name is Ma’ad Ibrahim Muhammad, according to al-Waili, and not Ahmad ‘Abid Ahmad Khamees al-Majma’i as first revealed by Iraqi government officials.
Al-Waili claims that Mr. Muhammad was a former staff colonel in the Iraqi Republican Guard until 1990, and was sentenced to be executed for membership in a Salafist Jihadist organization. His sentence was later commuted to expulsion from the army. He then left Iraq to Syria in 1991, bouncing around in places like Algeria and Morocco, and finally returning to Iraq in 2004 to join the Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi outfit.
However, three things stood out for me in al-Waili’s account:
1-The account is too Kirkuk-centric: “The pledge of allegiance was declared in all the mosques of al-Adheim.” Then, the associates of Mr. Muhammad named by al-Waili are all part of a Kirkuk-based network.
2-Mr. Muhammad was arrested by U.S. troops in 2007 and held at Camp Bucca for one and a half years, according to al-Waili. But that timeline conflicts with the frequency of al-Baghdadi’s speeches. One thing that is noticeable about the speeches is that they were all done with the same voice and the same manner of speaking. When jihadist speeches are given by others apart from the person the speech is attributed to, then that is usually mentioned. In al-Baghdadi’s case, the assertion was always this was him speaking.
First speech: December 22, 2006
Second speech: February 2, 2007
Third speech: March 14, 2007
Fourth speech: April 16, 2007
Fifth speech: July 9, 2007
Sixth speech: September 15, 2007
Seventh speech: (don’t have the date)
Eighth speech: December 28, 2007
Ninth speech: February 14, 2008
Tenth speech: April 13, 2008
We’ve heard from al-Baghdadi a total of 16 times by my count, the latest speech being his fifteenth on March 17, 2009. For al-Waili’s narrative to fit the timeline, it would have to mean that al-Baghdadi was recording his speeches while in U.S. custody, which entails large and unnecessary security risks that the jihadists wouldn’t undertake.
3-Al-Waili claims that after Mr. Muhammad’s release from Bucca, he was rearrested by the 19th Battalion based in Al-Adheim, and he was later released after the jihadists managed to bribe the commander. However, the name “Ma’ad Ibrahim Muhammad” appears on a list of detainees in Diyala Province who were beneficiaries of the Amnesty Law (enacted in February 2008), so it means that a man by that name was held in Diyala (Adheim lies between Diyala and Kirkuk) under Iraqi custody and released, according to this list (he’s number 196) issued by the Diyala Federal Appeals Court sometime around February 2009.
It is very likely that the man on the list is the same one being referred to by al-Waili.
I have a sense that something is still a bit off in this account. To me, this sound a lot like the arrest of a local Islamic State of Iraq emir in the Adheim area, rather than the big guy, al-Baghdadi, himself.
To date, there has been no official confirmation or refutation of the arrest by the official media channels of the Islamic State of Iraq.
I’d still wait to see how this spectacle pans out before celebrating or getting dejected.
UPDATE: The Al-Faloja jihadist website is claiming that it will have a new speech (as an audio file) from Abu Omar al-Baghdadi up in a few hours under the title 'Lying Agents' sourced to Al-Furqan Media Production, one of the Islamic State of Iraq's official propaganda arms. The ISI's Ministry of Information has also put out a press release today denying al-Baghdadi's arrest, and claiming that they do not know the man in the photo released by the Iraqi government.