A Jordanian Sting Operation Yielded the Vital Lead
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The final breakthrough in the long pursuit of the most blood-stained terrorist of them all, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, came from Jordan.
The source was Ziyad Halaf al Karbouli, also known as Abu Hufeiza, one of the lowlifes Zarqawi employed to attack and rob the convoys plying Baghdad’s main supply route across the Jordanian border and murdering their Iraqi or Jordanian drivers. Foreigners riding along were taken hostage. DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals that he was picked up – not by chance, but in consequence of a well-laid Jordanian sting operation set up and executed by King Abdullah’s old unit, The Riders of Justice of Jordan’s 71st Commando Brigade – and on his orders.
Jordanian intelligence had a score to settle with Zarqawi’s highway robber-in-chief. Last September, he kidnapped a Palestinian called Khaled Da Siko, who was an important Jordanian undercover agent, assigned with penetrating Zarqawi’s following. The abduction took place in Ruthba in western Iraq. When Abu Hufeiza asked Zarqawi what to do with his captive, he was told to execute him forthwith, which he did.
From that moment, Jordanian intelligence never let up on their efforts to lay hands on the kidnapper to exact revenge.
The Riders of Justice infiltrated western Iraq at the beginning of 2006 and scoured al Qaim, Ruthba, Falujja and Ramadi for the wanted man. At some point, they realized that even if they overpowered his bodyguards and killed him, they would never make it back to Jordan past Zarqawi’s killers. It had become necessary to go for the boss, who was in any case under sentence of death in the kingdom.
In early April therefore, a decision was taken in Amman to lure Abu Hufeiza into entering the kingdom in defiance of Zarqawi’s prohibition. Double agents held out an offer of a Jordanian base for al Qaeda, plus information on ways to lay hands on the hundreds of millions of dollars flowing through the funding channel between Jordan and Iraq.
Abu Hufeiza swallowed the bait. He was dazzled enough to picture himself handing the rich booty over to Abu Zarqawi and being promoted to his Number Two in al Qaeda’s Iraq hierarchy by his grateful master.
The moment he and his bodyguards set foot on Jordanian soil, all got up as Iraqi businessmen on a shopping trip, the trap snapped shut; they were surrounded by the Riders of Justice and hauled to Amman for questioning.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s counter-terror sources report that Abu Hufeiza held nothing back from his Jordanian interrogators. He was the source of the first real lead to Zarqawi’s location to be made available to the US command and intelligence in Iraq.
Abu Hufeiza also gave away certain members of the Butcher of Baghdad’s command group. Here is a summary of the data the Jordanians extracted from him:
The name of al Qaeda chief’s chief of operations, Yassin Harabi – an Iraqi Sunni codenamed Abu Obeida. Going down the chain of command, he identified Yunas Ramlawi, a Palestinian from the West Bank town of Ramallah, and Muhammad Majid, a Saudi Arabian known as Abu Hamza.
The descriptions he gave the Jordanians were good enough for identikit portraits and betrayed their hideouts, how they stayed in touch with Zarqawi and their movements.
This data haul Jordanian intelligence whipped across to Washington where analysts went to work on it and rushed their findings to American headquarters in Baghdad.
All of a sudden, the US military in Baghdad had an intelligence bonanza instead of chance identities of the odd Zarqawi adherent which was all they had to work with before. From Abu Hufeiza Jordanian intelligence had extracted the first clue to the location of the safe house near Baquba, where Zarqawi was actually in conference with his senior commanders. The next link in the chain came from a senior Zarqawi commander in Iraq, who fell into American hands and was persuaded to part with the final steps that brought two US 500-pound bombs crashing down on Zarqawi’s last address.
At first, some American officers queried these offerings as disinformation designed to trip them up. But when US commander General George W. Casey and American ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad ordered the input examined and cross-referenced, it proved solid enough for direct action.