Abu Musab al-Suri, Al Qaeda number 4, allegedly released from secret detention in Syria

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Mustafa Setmariam Nasr, aka Abu Musab al-Suri, thought to be the number four ranking member of Al Qaeda, is rumored to have been released by Syrian authorities in the past month, The Daily Star reported on Wednesday.

The Beirut-based paper said, "In December, Sooryoon.net, a Syrian opposition website, claimed that Nasr had been released with his assistant Abu Khaled.”

He is thought to be an intellectual force in the organization more than an active fighter. He published "The Call for a Global Islamic Resistance” in 2005, which clocked in at over 1,500 pages. In 2006 CNN said he "might be the most dangerous terrorist you've never heard of." An unverified photo of al-Suri can be seen at The Arab Digest.

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Nothing about his disappearance has ever been confirmed by authorities, but reporting over the past eight years on his rumored whereabouts were corroborated last year in the “Guantanamo Files” release by WikiLeaks, which said “Abu Musab al-Suri [Nasr] was arrested in Pakistan in late 2005 and detained in his native Syria.”

Reuters reported this in 2009, based on information gleaned from a human rights lawyer and al-Suri’s wife. It is also suspected that al-Suri spent time at Diego Garcia island, a tiny, foot-shaped British territory in the Indian Ocean that hosts a US naval base. The lawyer told Reuters he had been sent to Syria, his homeland, for permanent detention.

Al-Suri, who was born in Aleppo, Syria and has red hair and green eyes, is thought to be one of the most articulate writers for Qaeda’s vision. He holds Spanish citizenship, and is wanted in connection to the 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 and some say helped push Spain to withdraw its troops from the Iraq War. 

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Rumors of the man’s release first began to appear halfway through last month on Islamist websites.

Syria’s regime of Bashar al-Assad has been warring with rebel factions who seek the president’s ouster. The Daily Star notes that while the Syrian government is firmly secular and blames current violence on terrorists, such a move could be seen as retribution for reneging on a unofficial warming of relations between the Washington and Damascus.

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