A U.S. airstrike in northern Iraq killed one of the men responsible for planning the coordinated truck bomb attack that killed at least 411 people last month, the military said Sunday.
Abu Muhammad al-Afri was killed on Sept. 3 in a rural area 70 miles southwest of Mosul, the U.S. military said in a written statement.
U.S. forces identified Afri as the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq’s operations in the northern village of Sinjar and one of the organizers of the deadliest bombing since the U.S.-led invasion in Iraq.
The military said the Sept. 3 airstrike killed al-Afri and his driver. “Close associates and detainees confirmed that al-Afri was killed during the strike,” the military said.
I’ve had a number of folks ask me over the past few years why we usually learn about dead bad guys a week or so after the fact. A couple of them seem to think it indicates that the Bush administration or the military or whoever is lying.
In fact, there are probably a number of factors involved, one of them being cautiousness about announcing killed enemy leaders before 100% confirmation can be made. Most of these leader types are near legends within their spheres of influence, and many of the easily-swayed put quite a bit of stock into miraculous stories of jihadist successes and divine support from the powers that watch over them. So a worldwide announcement that so-and-so was killed this morning in an air strike, followed shortly by a public appearance by so-and-so, would be a huge victory for the insurgency and terrorist organizations. It would greatly increase the standing of those groups and be major egg on the face of the US military and the Iraqi government.
Also, in at least some cases there is probably the hope that intelligence can be gathered at the scene of the strike which could lead to other elements of the target’s organization. Maybe others at the scene of the strike were captured and we’re waiting to see if we can get any actionable information out them. If so, it’s in our best interest to keep the lid on the success of the attack as long as possible in order to keep others in the group from going to ground or altering plans that we may be in position to derail.
I suspect that in many cases where these successful strikes are announced quickly, it is because the news has already leaked.
All that, of course, made too much sense for most of those who asked me. In the spring of 2006, on the day that it was announced that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been killed, a co-worker said “Great. There’s just one more thing Bush is going to brag about!” Nice.
Meanwhile, kudos out not only to the air crews that took out al-Afri, but to the ground crews that loaded and prepped the planes, the air crews of the supporting aircraft, the command and control elements, the planners, the intelligence units, and everyone else who, however tangentially, had a hand in this success. All the way down to the production workers who built the planes, bombs, guidance units, and everything else used by everyone else who made this happen.