The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Zarqawi’s successor

Neither the name Ayyoub al-Masri nor Abu Hamza al-Muhajer rang a bell. But after having a look at Zarqawi’s alleged successor's photo, Islamist lawyer Montasser al-Zayat suggested to Al-Hayat, that the new head of the militant network in Iraq might be a man by the name Youssef al-Dardeeri, an Islamist from one of the Upper Egyptian provinces, who lived for sometime in el-Zawya el-Hamra neighborhood in Cairo.

Dardeeri’s name, according to Zayat, was not mentioned in any of the terror cases in Egypt, as he left for Afghanistan sometime in the 1980s, before the outbreak of the 1992 Islamist insurgency in the Nile Valley.
The new Al-Qa3da chief in Iraq did not belong to any of the Egyptian groups in Afghanistan (Islamic Jihad and Gama3a Islamiya), and assumed a neutral position towards them, according to Zayat, contrary to the US army claims that Abu Ayyoub was linked to Zawahiri's Islamic Jihad since 1982. Zarqawi, said Zayat, preferred working with independents who had no affiliation with the other established militant groups at the time. Dardeeri fled together with Zarqawi following the US occupation of Afghanistan, to Iran, and then to Iraq.
On the other hand, Yasser al-Sirri, the director of the London-based Islamic Observation Center, thinks that al-Masri does not exist. He said:
(I)nformation supplied by al-Qaida in announcing the new leader pointed to another man: Abdullah bin Rashid al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Mujahedeen Shura Council -- five allied groups in the Sunni Arab-dominated insurgency.
"I'm 95 percent sure that this al-Masri doesn't exist," al-Sirri said, adding that the group could be trying to cover up the nationality of its new leader to promote a broader Islamic identity.
"Al-Qaida does not want to show that he is an Iraqi because they work under the Islamic banner ... and they seek international jihad," al-Sirri said.

Here's also a commentary by West Point's CTC on the challenges facing al-Masri.