Thursday, December 15, 2005

Slippery Eels

There are some men just too difficult to catch. Like Osama bin Laden (remember him?). And also, it seems, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Well, to be precise, he may have been caught but not for long:

Iraqi security forces caught the most wanted man in the country last year, but released him because they didn't know who he was, the Iraqi deputy minister of interior said Thursday.

Hussain Kamal confirmed that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the al Qaeda in Iraq leader who has a $25 million bounty on his head -- was in custody at some point last year, but he wouldn't provide further details.

A U.S. official couldn't confirm the report, but said he wouldn't dismiss it.

"It is plausible," he said.

Thursday's news tops a list of reports of missed opportunities to capture the 39-year-old terrorist mastermind. An official said the military receives frequent reports of al-Zarqawi sightings, all of which are investigated. (View profile on al-Zarqawi)

In April, U.S. troops stormed a hospital in Ramadi based on credible intelligence that terrorists were hiding there, but no suspects were found, military officials said in early May.

A high-ranking Iraqi Army officer said there were rumors that al-Zarqawi was at the Ramadi medical center, and several groups affiliated with the al Qaeda operative issued statements saying the same.

Iraqi Lt. Gen. Nasser Abadi said Thursday that al-Zarqawi was taken to the hospital. He added that he didn't believe Kamal's report was correct.

"When we got the news, we rushed there, but he was out of there," the general said.

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi was almost captured in February, too, after troops received a tip that he was heading to a meeting in Ramadi, said Pentagon officials speaking on condition of anonymity.

What does this remind me of? This:

Macavity's a Mystery Cat: he's called the Hidden Paw--
For he's the master criminal who can defy the Law.
He's the bafflement of Scotland Yard, the Flying Squad's despair:
For when they reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!

Macavity, Macavity, there's no on like Macavity,
He's broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity.
His powers of levitation would make a fakir stare,
And when you reach the scene of crime--Macavity's not there!
You may seek him in the basement, you may look up in the air--
But I tell you once and once again, Macavity's not there!

Except that Eliot wrote about something fun and al-Zarqawi is not. Still, the bumbling of the authorities here is very similar to the way it is described in the poem. Now how did I get from eels to cats? Hmm.