05/09/2008, 00.00
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Iraqi forces: al-Masri, al Qaeda leader, captured

So reports the Iraqi Minister for the State, but the US army gives no confirmation. The arrest took place last night in northern Mosul, the last stronghold of Sunni extremism.

Baghdad (AsiaNews/Agencies) –The head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyab al-Masri, has been arrested.  This according to the Iraqi Defense Minister.  The news has yet to be confirmed however by the US security forces.  Spokesman for the State Minister, general Abdel Karim Khalaf, referred that they “arrested one of al-Qaeda's leaders at midnight and during the primary investigations he admitted that he was Abu Hamza al-Muhajir” (also known as al-Masri). The capture took place during an Iraqi troop operation on a village north of Mosul, the provincial capital and the last bastion of Sunni fundamentalism.

The US army in Iraq is cautious and sceptical, their spokesman declaring; “we are still attempting to verify the report”.  An American official in Baghdad has also said outright that he doubts the truth of events.

The Egyptian-born militant Al-Masri took over the leadership of the group from Abu Musab al-Zarqawi shortly after he was killed in a US air strike in June 2006. Officially in April 2007, he was named "minister of war" in the 10-man cabinet of the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella organisation of Sunni militant groups led by Abu Omar al Baghdadi. But according to Washington the latter is a fictitious identity, and the true head of the organisation is in fact Masri.


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