Al Zarqawi Has Been out of Iraq for Months

The Jordanian terrorist mastermind, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, whose group Tawhid and Jihad claims responsibility for most of the most savage terrorist attacks in Iraq, including the beheading of hostages, is not in the country at all. This is what American interrogators were told by Omar Baziyani, believed to have been commander of Zarqawi’s operations in Baghdad, who was captured in the second week of September (as first reported in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 174 on Sep. 24).


The Americans are keeping this disclosure a close secret while intensifying their hunt for more of the missing terrorist’s deputies.


Tuesday, October 12, our counter-terror sources reveal, US forces sought out another of his top men, Abu Anas al-Shamari, for a targeted killing in Fallujah. This incident shook some august Arab circles. The target was a member of the Shamar tribal federation, to which Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah and branches of the Syrian president’s family, such as his uncle Rif’at Assad, belong.


According to the information coming from Baziyani, Zarqawi has spent very little time in Iraq in the last year. A few days before the first US assault on Fallujah last April, he headed for Iran where he stayed until early June. The Iranians then helped him cross back into Iraq and reach Baqouba, in the Sunni Triangle, where his men were waiting to transport him to Fallujah.


In early August, he returned to Iran and since then, according to the captured lieutenant, he has not been heard of. Asked how field commanders like himself got in touch with their missing chief for orders and new directives, Baziyani replied that there had been no contact. Senior commanders had no difficulty in carrying on alone, as when the need arose they were all trained to fend for themselves and their men as autonomous entities.


He admitted that the only way reach Zarqawi was through Iranian agents working undercover in Iraq. The agents might agree to forward messages through the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Jerusalem Corps commander, General Qassem Sulmani, in Tehran. But so far, no response had been received. Either the messages were not passed on or Zarqawi failed to reply.


The captured terrorist group’s Baghdad commander revealed that his boss was introduced to the Iranians by senior men of the Ansar al-Islam group and he visited Tehran for the first time in the latter half of 2001. But the group has since split, part joining Zarqawi’s terrorists and part staying with Iran.


Additional revelations from Baziyani’s interrogation that have reached DEBKA-Net-Weekly:


Ever since mid-2001, there has been no contact between Zarqawi and Osama bin Laden. Consequently, neither Zarqawi nor his group view themselves any longer as an integral part of al Qaeda.


Zarqawi’s organization commands 2,500 terrorists under arms. He never moves out, even in Iran, without an escort of 25 guerrilla-trained armed men. None are Iraqi.

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