Yesterday's audio recording released by Usama Bin Laden on the Internet caused a flurry of reactions in media circles, particularly focused on Bin Laden's discussion of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's role within Al-Qaida and the identity of his successor at the helm of Al-Qaida in Iraq. Unfortunately, once again, mainstream media has made some very serious mistakes in reporting on this issue. Let's try and make this issue as clear as possible:
1.) Usama Bin Laden has *never* endorsed Abu Ayyub al-Masri by name as the leader of Al-Qaida in Iraq. To my knowledge, Bin Laden has *never*, *ever* mentioned this person before publicly in any statement, video, or even offhand remark.
2.) In his latest speech, Bin Laden identified the new leader of Al-Qaida in Iraq as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir--the same mysterious individual nominated by Al-Qaida's commanders inside of Iraq about two weeks ago. The only credible source to link Abu Ayyub to Abu Hamza is the U.S. military, which suggested recently that they are "probably" the same person. The military posted a hefty reward for al-Masri--but White House officials subsequently backed off that hazy assertion. Thus, until there is at least some additional corroboration from credible Al-Qaida sources, it is only prudent to assume that Abu Hamza and Abu Ayyub are *NOT*, in fact, the same person.