WHOA. This seems worthy of some MSM attention. Says Abu Aardvark:

Al-Quds al-Arabi and al-Masry al-Youm are reporting today that Abu Ayoub al-Masri, the man named by the United States as the new leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, has actually been in an Egyptian prison for the last seven years. According to Mamdouh Ismail, a lawyer for the Gamaa Islamiya, Sharif Hazaa (the real name of the man believed to be Abu Ayoub al-Masri) has been in the Tarah prison south of Cairo the whole time. Ismail claims to have seen him there just two days ago while he was visiting other prisoners. For what it's worth, bin Laden named Abu Hamza al-Muhajir as the successor to Zarqawi in his July 1 tape (al-Muhajir has been posed as an alias for al-Masri). Analysts have been arguing about al-Muhajir's identity since his name first surfaced, and Montasser Zayat had previously cast doubt that al-Masri could be the person in question. Al-Masry al-Youm interprets this as evidence of the weakness of American intelligence in Iraq; neither the Americans nor the Egyptians had any comment. I'm not sure how much it matters, or who's right, but I thought this was an interesting story worth passing on.

Passed along on this end, as well, with hopes that someone's foreign desk can look into this.

UPDATE: Hossam el-Hamalawy over at The Arabist has more.

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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