View Full Version : Deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq captured

09-04-06, 06:06 AM
Deputy leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq captured

by Jay Deshmukh

Baghdad announced the arrest of Al-Qaeda in Iraq's deputy leader, accusing him of masterminding an attack on a revered Shiite shrine that triggered a brutal wave of sectarian killings.

News of the arrest of Hamed Jumaa al-Saedi, an Iraqi, came as a row erupted over a ban on the national flag in the autonomous Kurdish region in the north and as two US marines were killed by "enemy action" in Iraq's western province of Al-Anbar, a bastion of the Sunni insurgency.

The latest deaths brought the US military's losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 2,647, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.

Saedi was "captured a few days ago along with a group of his loyalists after an operation was carried out by Iraqi security forces supported by US forces," national security advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told reporters.

Rubaie said Saedi was the "number two leader after Abu Ayyub al-Masri" of the Al-Qaeda Islamist network in Iraq.

Masri was appointed as the group's Iraq commander after the June 7 slaying of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a US air strike near the restive provincial capital of Baquba, north of Baghdad.

"Saedi was arrested north of Baquba not far from the location where Zarqawi was killed," Rubaie said.

"During the raid, Saedi took shelter in a residential building, but he was arrested without any harm to civilians," Rubaie added.

Saedi is accused of ordering the February 22 bomb attack that demolished a Shiite shrine in the town of Samarra, north of the capital.

Rubaie said that during the raid to capture Saedi, 11 other senior Al-Qaeda operatives and nine lesser suspects were also detained.

He said Saedi's arrest dealt a severe "blow to Al-Qaeda in Iraq, especially their activities aimed at inciting sectarian conflicts."

"Saedi used to supervise terrorist groups that kidnapped people for ransom and also operated several death squads," he said. "His terrorist attacks using mortars and roadside bombs killed many troops and civilians."

In June, Rubaie had announced the capture of a Tunisian Al-Qaeda militant suspected of participating in the Samarra shrine bombing.

Abu Qudama al-Tunisi was accused of taking an active part in blowing up the mosque's golden dome on orders from an Iraqi militant, Haitham al-Badri.

On Sunday, Rubaie said that Badri had taken orders from Saedi to bomb the shrine. Badri remains at large.

Meanwhile, a new row broke out as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki set himself on a collision course with Kurdish leaders by ordering public buildings across Iraq to fly the national flag.

"The present Iraqi flag should be hoisted on every inch of Iraqi soil until the parliament takes a decision about it," Maliki said in a statement issued by his office.

Massud Barzani, president of the autonomous Kurdish regional government, last week raised separatist tensions after he banned the Iraqi flag from government offices in the region, leaving the Kurdish colours to fly alone.

On Sunday, Barzani insisted he had consulted Maliki, a Shiite Arab, and President Jalal Talabani, a fellow Kurd, before ordering the national flag taken down.

"The decision came after consultation with both President Talabani and the Iraqi prime minister. I haven't made the decision by myself," he said.

In a scathing attack on Iraqi Arab politicians, Barzani said: "Those who condemn it are chauvinists escaping from internal problems.

"They are losers. They are not rulers or statesmen. They can't run their own region and they want to make Kurdistan just like their region.

"The time of threatening is over. No one has the right to force his will on the Kurdish people."

Iraq's Kurdish minority associates Iraq's red, white and black banner with Saddam's hated Baath party, although it has been retained as the national flag by the post-Saddam government in Baghdad.

The Kurds were granted autonomy in three northern provinces as long ago as the early 1970s, and after the 1991 Gulf war they ran their own administrations in the north under Western protection in defiance of Saddam's regime.

The two main Kurdish parties -- Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party and Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan -- both backed the US-led invasion of 2003 and have since demanded the expansion of their autonomous region to include the northern oil city of Kirkuk and parts of two other provinces.

Sunni Arab politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, meanwhile, warned Barzani that his separatist intentions would face stiff resistance.

"Barzani is nothing without Iraq and the Iraqi flag," he said.

"Any Arab land if forcefully taken will be like a cancer in the body of Kurdistan and that will not allow it to be peaceful. Whatever is taken by force will be again grabbed by force," he said referring to Kirkuk which is also claimed by Arabs.

Rebels killed at least 21 people Sunday, including five Iraqi soldiers in Fallujah, west of Baghdad.

The US military also announced the deaths of four troops, taking its total losses in Iraq since the March 2003 invasion to 2,645, according to an AFP count based on Pentagon figures.