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September 26, 2006
Brits Take Out Osama Protege

Omar al-Farouq had quite an adventurous career as an al-Qaeda terrorist. He had joined AQ in the heady days of the early 1990s, training in Aghanistan and eventually rising in the organization until Osama bin Laden handpicked him to run the AQ network in Southeast Asia. Captured by the Americans in 2002, he escaped last year and fulfilled American expectations by running to Iraq. The adventure came to an end yesterday in Basra:

BRITISH troops shot dead one of al-Qaeda’s most elusive fugitives yesterday after his extraordinary flight from a US prison in Afghanistan to a luxury villa in the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

Omar al-Farouk, 35, was handpicked by Osama bin Laden to run al-Qaeda’s network in South-East Asia and was captured in June 2002, weeks before he allegedly planned to bomb eight American embassies across the region.

The Kuwaiti-born terror suspect was groomed at an Afghan camp and sent to Indonesia, where he was arrested while hiding in a mosque. Al-Farouk was flown to one of America’s most secure detention centres at Bagram airbase on the outskirts of Kabul. But he and three fellow al-Qaeda suspects picked the locks and escaped across a minefield in July last year.

He later appeared on an Arab television channel taunting his US captors and vowing to carry out terror attacks in America. Major Charlie Burbridge, a British military spokesman, told The Times that the military had spent several days planning the raid after a tip-off from US Intelligence last week that al-Farouk was in Iraq.

I guess Farouk will never get that opportunity to kill Americans, thanks to the British. US intelligence services coordinated with the large unit of the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment -- 250 troops -- to surround the villa in which Farouk secreted himself. They tried to arrest him, but Farouk opened fire on the Brits, a rather suicidal move on his part.

Not that we lost much of an intel opportunity, as it turns out. Farouk had no trappings of an active terrorist; he left behind no al-Qaeda literature, nor any weapons or organizing material. For the man who once planned a coordinated attack on American embassies to "celebrate" the first anniversary of 9/11, his world ended with a bang that seems much more like a whimper.

However, the death of Farouk in Basra points up another problem, according to the Times of London. AQ terrorists have begun transiting out of Afghanistan and into Iraq, presumably to escape the troubles along the Afghan/Pakistan border. Two intelligence sources in the region told CBS that AQ has decided to "scale down" its leadership structure in their former home. Whether they intend on staying in Iraq hasn't been determined, but Basra seems a strange destination for AQ. The Wahhabist terrorists would hardly blend into the Shi'ite region; Farouk managed to find one of the areas where the Shi'ite militias rarely patrol.

If they try getting into the Anbar region or Baghdad, they may prove once again that the fight against terrorism in the region has centered on Iraq. The AQ move may be intended on ensuring that the terrorists do not allow the Americans to succeed in the theater.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 26, 2006 5:45 AM

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