- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Abu Musab Zarqawi, the al Qaeda-linked terrorist who orchestrates murder and mayhem in Iraq, is so secretive even some operatives who work with him do not know his identity.

Zarqawi, whose videotaped beheading of American Nicholas Berg further defined the chief U.S. enemy, is a master of disguise and bogus identification papers. It is likely he has been within eyesight of coalition authorities — and not recognized.

This is the profile drawn by military sources of the most sought-after fugitive in Iraq. Zarqawi may be bin Laden’s best weapon in preventing Iraq from becoming a moderate Arab state that leads the region away from the kind of radical Islam taught by the al Qaeda leader.

“All the Marines have a picture of him, and he is our high-value target,” said a Marine officer in Iraq. “The problem is that there is no identification system, so it is not out of the ordinary for a target to not have an ID or several IDs with different names. It really is the Wild West. He could easily be moving from town to town using several different names and appearances.

“I doubt the cells he operates with know who he is and that there is a $10 million award for him.”

Added a defense official, “He relies upon trusted associates, hand-delivered communications and other things.” The official declined to elaborate.

The under-the-radar style is similar to bin Laden’s. The terror master, who is thought to be hiding in Pakistan’s western tribal region, stopped using cell and satellite phones in the late 1990s, after learning that the National Security Agency had a fix on his phone numbers and was listening.

The United States believes bin Laden now uses couriers to deliver messages. Earlier this year, Zarqawi relied on messengers to try to deliver a letter to bin Laden urging an alliance to defeat the Americans in Iraq.

When Iraqi and foreign insurgents sprung an uprising in the frontier town of Fallujah in early April, coalition officials in Baghdad quickly got intelligence clues that Zarqawi himself was in the city.

“The problem here is with foreign fighters, international terrorists, people like Zarqawi, who we believe to be in Fallujah or nearby, and those Iraqis who would support the operations of the foreign fighters and the terrorists,” said coalition spokesman Daniel Senor on April 13.

“As for Zarqawi, I’m not going to talk about our specific plans for the hunt for Zarqawi. Rest assured that it is robust. But we believe that Fallujah right now is a hotbed for foreign fighters who are in Iraq, in which we include Zarqawi.”

The Washington Times reported May 4 that the military was no longer getting indications that Zarqawi was in Fallujah. If he was ever there, he had left, military sources said.

Zarqawi stands as stark evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein’s autocratic regime and bin Laden’s al Qaeda terror network.

Zarqawi, 38, operated a terrorist camp in northern Iraq that specialized in developing poisons and chemical weapons. U.S. intelligence believes, but is not sure, that the Jordanian-born Zarqawi went to Afghanistan in 2002 to fight with the Taliban against the U.S. coalition.

Wounded, he returned to Iraq and received medical care in one of Baghdad’s most prestigious hospitals, the United States thinks. It was the kind of care and comfort that Saddam himself, or senior regime figures, must have approved, U.S. officials say.

Zarqawi’s reach stretches over continents. German authorities investigating the Hamburg al Qaeda cell that planned the September 11 attacks discovered another terror organization — Jamaat al Tawhid. Financed or directed by Zarqawi, the group operates an underground railroad for Islamic militants to infiltrate countries and plan attacks.

It is this expertise in forging the required travel documents that helps Zarqawi move in and out of Iraq and other Middle East countries.

He funded the slaying in 2002 of Laurence Foley, an American officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development in Jordan, say U.S. and Jordanian officials. Jordan also says he organized a planned chemical weapons attack that was aborted by Jordanian authorities this spring.

In Iraq, Zarqawi is determined to ignite a civil war between his Muslim sect, the Sunnis, and the majority Shi’ites, according to a letter written by the terrorist and obtained by U.S. officials. The United States believes he is behind a rash of suicide vehicle bombings that killed scores of Iraqis in the Shi’ite south.

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