debkafile Exclusive: Israeli Arabs caught fighting with al Qaeda in Iraq

Captured in Baghdad Saturday, March 17, were two – some sources say three – Israeli Arabs, who told their American interrogators they came from the northern Israeli village of Majd al Krum near Carmiel, northeast of Haifa. They were taken prisoner fighting in the central Baghdad district of Bab al Moadham, near the notorious insurgent stronghold of Haifa Street, together with Abu Qetada al Falastini, deputy al Qaeda commander in Iraq.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report that al Falastini’s real name is Mahmoud al Madi and he hails from the West Bank town of Nablus.
The Israeli Arabs captured with him formed his inner personal command. Ahead of the new US-led security crackdown in Baghdad ordered by President George W. Bush, al Qaeda pulled its top local commanders out of the city and out of range. It is not clear why the Palestinian group did not join them.
Western intelligence services and agencies engaged in the war on al Qaeda were taken aback by the discovery of Israel Arabs in al Qaeda’s Iraqi ranks, although they had long ago spotted the veteran Abu Qetada who joined the jihadist movement in 1992. After years spent at training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he came to Iraq in 2004 to fight alongside Abu Musab al Zarqawi. After he was killed by the Americans, the Palestinian was appointed his successor’s deputy.
The Israeli Arabs told their captors that two or three years ago they went to study at fundamentalist Muslim medressas in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where they were recruited by al Qaeda. They are believed to have reached Iraq last year with orders from Pakistan to find Abu Qetada and fight the Americans under his command.
Sunday, March 18, al Qaeda in Iraq issued a communique denying that any of its chiefs had been detained in Baghdad, without mentioning any names.

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