"Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please." (Mark Twain)
Thursday, May 05, 2005
A Libyan seized in Pakistan this week was the fourth purported No. 3 leader of al-Qaida killed or captured since the Sept. 11 attacks, but the global dragnet has yet to reach up the terror group's hierarchy to the main prizes Osama bin Laden and his right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Pakistani and U.S. officials hope the arrest of Abu Farraj al-Libbi after a shootout in a graveyard Monday may change that.i At least five other al-Qaida suspects have been detained in Pakistan over the past week, intelligence officials say.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of bin Laden, they say, it ought to be al-Libbi, who has purportedly been a close confidant since the early 1990s, even before the Saudi millionaire set up al-Qaida.
Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said authorities were "on the right track" to capture bin Laden, and others in the government echoed that sentiment.
Now, I'm sure that al-Libbi (a psedonym meaning "the Libyan") is not a nice man, and it's surely good that he's out of commission. But, as far as that "no. 3" designation goes - well, let's just see about that:
There are also questions whether al-Libbi or anyone else is really al-Qaida's "No. 3" man.
"He's definitely close to the leadership, but I'm not happy with the No. 3 designation," said [Paul Wilkinson, chairman of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland]. "I think it is unlikely there is a numerical hierarchy after al-Zawahri, who is most certainly the deputy...."
The first man dubbed al-Qaida's No. 3, Mohammed Atef, was killed by a U.S. airstrike on Kabul in November 2001 as the Taliban regime crumbled in Afghanistan.
Abu Zubaydah, the next to assume the role, was captured March 28, 2002, in the eastern city of Faisalabad. The Saudi-born Palestinian survived gunshot wounds in the stomach, groin and leg, and has been in U.S. custody ever since.
Zubaydah's replacement, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, was arrested in Rawalpindi, near the Pakistani capital, on March 1, 2003. He also is in U.S. custody.
Ramzi Binalshibh, another top bin Laden deputy, was arrested in the southern city of Karachi on the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
It kind of reminds me of that great old TV series, The Prisoner, where every week there was a new "Number Two." Not a lot of job security in that gig, know what I'm sayin'?