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U.S. Announces Capture Of Top Al-Qaeda In Iraq Figure

(RFE/RL) July 18, 2007 -- The U.S. military says its troops have detained a man believed to be the most senior Iraqi member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq.

Brigadier General Kevin Bergner said the man, Khalid al-Mashhadani, was captured in the northern town of Mosul on July 4.

Bergner said al-Mashhadani was a close associate of Abu Ayub al-Masri, the Egyptian-born head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, and that he serves as an intermediary between al-Masri and the two top Al-Qaeda leaders, Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq was created in 2004 by Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in a U.S. air strike in Iraq's Diyala Governorate in 2006.

Bergner also said al-Mashhadani told U.S. interrogators that a prominent Al-Qaeda-led group, the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq, did not actually exist, and its alleged leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, was a fictitious character.

Bergner said that according to al-Mashhadani, the Islamic State of Iraq was invented to try to put an Iraqi face on what is a foreign-driven network.

(AFP, AP, Reuters)

Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi

Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi

Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi(undated AFP file photo)

COMMITTED TO TERROR: Jordan-born Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi has been among the most visible and ruthless leaders of Iraq's post-Saddam Hussein insurgency. In a tape released earlier this month, al-Zaqawi called on Iraqi Sunnis to fight against Shi'a and labeled Shi'ite spiritual leader Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani an "atheist."
Insurgents loyal to Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi's Al-Qaeda-affiliated organization have regained control over much of Al-Anbar Governorate, and are posing a major challenge to U.S. and Iraqi forces. A local security force established by tribesmen under an agreement with the U.S. military has all but ceased operating, after nearly a dozen tribal leaders were assassinated in revenge attacks by insurgents loyal to al-Zarqawi's Mujahedin Shura Council since January. Local tribal leaders now say they are afraid to be seen associating with U.S. forces, lest they be targeted by insurgents....(more)


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THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to see RFE/RL's complete coverage of events in Iraq and that country's ongoing transition.