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Iraq Seizes Sunni Insurgent Leader

BAGHDAD (Reuters) -- Iraqi forces captured the leader of a Sunni Arab militant group blamed for a string of deadly bomb attacks, a Baghdad security spokesman said on January 11, adding that he also had links to Iraqi politicians.

Baghdad forces spokesman Qasim al-Musawi said Thayer Kadhim Abid al-Suraiwi, the commander of Sunni Arab militant group Ansar Al-Sunnah, was captured last month in west Baghdad.

Al-Musawi said Suraiwi had confessed receiving support from some politicians, but couldn't name any, pending investigation.

"We have the names of those helping this terrorist. They work inside Iraq and unfortunately some of them are part of the political process," he said. "Their aim is to shake stability."

Al-Musawi said Suraiwi was behind bomb attacks and assassinations between 2006 and 2008, including a vehicle bomb blast on a crowded market in northwestern Baghdad's mostly Shi'ite Al-Hurriyah district that killed scores of people.

He put the number killed in that attack on June 18 at 40, although the U.S. military at the time said 63 had been killed and blamed it on a rogue Shi'ite militia with Iranian backing.

Al-Musawi also said he was wanted for the murder of 17 off-duty police officers in mid-2006. He said he had support from armed groups in neighboring countries, without naming any.

U.S. and Iraqi officials often report capturing top Al-Qaeda militants and insurgents. Such claims are hard to verify.

Violence has dropped sharply in Iraq during the past year but militants still carry out deadly attacks.

Last week, at least 35 people were killed and more than 70 wounded when a suicide bomber targeted Shi'ite pilgrims at a religious festival in Baghdad's Al-Kadhamiyah district.