Now I’m not sure what to make of this, but I’ve been following this story myself for several weeks, and there’s something to it. AllahPundit mentions a report from the Northeast Intelligence Network stating that Osama bin Laden had been captured around the 20th of January in Iran, and that Ayman al-Zawahiri had been killed by Task Force 121 near Wana, Pakistan about ten days ago.
How much stock do I put into this report? Well, despite some alarmist claims, the Northeast Intelligence Network has hit the mark on several occasions. They scour jihadi Internet boards, and they’ve found information on terror attacks in Israel that has proven to be correct. Some of their information should be taken with a grain of salt, other pieces of information seem accurate.
What I have found leads me to believe that at the very least the remaining leadership of al-Qaeda is on borrowed time. Task Force 121 is one of the singularly best special operations forces in the history of modern warfare. US soldiers have essentially gone native in Afghanistan, becoming proxy warlords, using influence and money to help hunt down al-Qaeda. The darkest parts of the rugged Afghan-Pakistan border are no longer as safe or as isolated as they once were – the members of al-Qaeda hiding in those areas are sitting ducks for US soldiers, hostile tribesmen, or Pakistani Army personnel. While there are still places were Qaeda troops or leaders can hide, they are becoming few and far between.
If this report is correct, and it is possible, although there is no way of confirming it, it means that one of the biggest manhunts in world history is over, and one of the most dangerous men in the world is in captivity. Even if this report isn’t correct, it shows how much pressure is being exerted on al-Qaeda. It is no longer a matter of if the leadership of al-Qaeda will be found, but a matter of when.
UPDATE: Here’s a preliminary timeline of events that indicate the possible capture of bin Laden. Those events that are speculatory are noted.
February 6, 2002: A Saudi cook who had worked with bin Laden said that he had fled to Iran after the assault on Tora Bora. (Speculative)
January 18, 2004: Five Qaeda members are arrested in Pakistan. Two of the five are Arabs rumored to know of a high-value Qaeda operative.
January 20, 2004: US Special Operations troops under the command of Task Force 121 engage in a mission that results in the capture of Osama bin Laden in Southeast Iran. (Speculative)
January 23, 2004: Die Welt reports a rumor of bin Laden’s capture, spurring a boost in commodity markets worldwide. The US State Department quickly issues a statement denying the rumor.
January 23, 2004: A Lebanese TV station makes a spoof news report of bin Laden’s capture, causing a major backlash.
January 30, 2004: Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini makes a trip to Tehran to discuss Iranian cooperation in worldwide counterterrorist operations as well as nuclear non-proliferation.
February 8, 2004: President Bush appears on Meet the Press and refuses to discuss the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
February 21, 2004: Reports emerge that bin Laden has been surrounded on the Afghan/Pakistan border.
February 28, 2004: The official Iranian new agency claims bin Laden had been captured. The report states that bin Laden had been captured previously, but neither the US government nor the Iranians would give much credence to the rumor.
February 29, 2004: The Middle East Newswire reports that the US would need Iranian help in capturing bin Laden to prevent him from escaping to Iran through the Baluchistan region of Afghanistan. (Speculative)
March 7, 2004: Khalid al-Zawahiri, the son of al-Qaeda #2 Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri is captured near Wana, Pakistan. It is rumored that the younger Zawahiri gives significant evidence to TF 121 and the Pakistani military.
March 18, 2004: The Pakistani military reportedly surrounds a complex where the elder Zawahiri is believed to be hiding. Several radio messages with Zawahiri’s codename are intercepted. The US sends several Global Hawk and Predator drones to provide live aerial surveillance of the area. It is also rumored, but not confirmed, that Task Force 121 is also present while the Pakistanis continue their raid on the complex.
March 21, 2004: The Australian reports that Task Force 121 shot Zawahiri as he tried to escape from the seige near Wana. Col. David Hunt, a military analyst for the Fox News Network had also stated that it was his belief that Zawahiri had been killed in the fighting, but he could not elaborate or corroborate that story. (Speculative)
More as the story develops…
For the record, I don’t personally believe Osama bin Laden has been captured yet. The fact that we raised the bounty on him to $50 million and recent actions by Task Force 121 in Afghanistan seem to indicated that bin Laden is still being hunted, and is still in the regions around the Afghan-Pakistan border. However, there is a compelling chain of evidence that suggests the possibility of bin Laden’s capture. Without any confirmation, it is always wise to take such evidence with a large grain of salt.