Page last updated at 17:43 GMT, Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Profile: Abu Ghadiya

Villagers in Syria after the strike
Villagers in Syria say their relatives were killed in the strike
Mystery surrounds the fate of a top al-Qaeda operative reportedly targeted by an alleged US strike on Syria.

US officials have identified Syrian militant Abu Ghadiya as a key figure behind the smuggling of foreign fighters into Iraq.

They are reportedly claiming that his death in the raid will have a major impact on al-Qaeda's capabilities.

But this runs at odds with statements made by the militant's organisation, al-Qaeda in Iraq, which announced his death on jihadist web sites over two years ago.

According to an al-Qaeda obituary of the militant released in August 2006, Abu Ghadiya died on the Saudi-Iraqi border sometime after the US-Iraqi offensive on Fallujah in November 2004.

The group said he had been sent to the area to meet with a leader of al-Qaeda's Saudi branch.

Both men died in an airstrike which targeted a house they were meeting in, the group claimed.

Major target

But al-Qaeda's story is not accepted by the US.

Earlier this year it identified Abu Ghadiya as a major target and froze his assets over accusations that he was supplying al-Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate with money, weapons and foreign militants from Syria.


A Syrian by birth, he is also believed to have played an important role in militant activities in Jordan and Lebanon.

In 2006 a Jordanian court sentenced Abu Ghadiya to death in absentia for plotting chemical attacks in the kingdom.

Also known as Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, Abu Ghadiya is said to be from Damascus, where he graduated as a dentist before heading for Afghanistan in the 1990s.

It was there that he is thought to have met Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the future leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Abu Ghadiya became a key aide to Zarqawi and followed him to Iraq following the US-led 2003 invasion, where he is thought to have helped him found the Tawhid and Jihad Group, the precursor to al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Iraq Insurgency

According to al-Qaeda, Abu Ghadiya maintained a database on foreign fighters in Fallujah and led militants fighting the US and Iraqi forces in the November 2004 battle in the town.

Al-Qaeda militants dominated Fallujah and other areas of western Iraq at that time, making it the heartland of the anti-American insurgency.

But their power has dramatically declined since then after they lost the support of local Sunni tribes.

The group suffered a severe military setback as a result of the campaign waged against it by the Awakening councils, tribesmen who allied with the US to fight al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq has so far made no comment on the reports of Abu Ghadiya's death, and the US has refused officially to confirm or deny reports that Abu Ghadiya really was the target of the strike.

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