Al-Qa'ida suspect held trying to enter Iraq

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An alleged al-Qa'ida operative said to have close ties to the man believed to have planned the terror attacks of 11 September 2001 has been captured as he tried to enter Iraq, it was revealed yesterday.

President George Bush said Hassan Ghul was captured inside Iraq, where he was allegedly helping insurgents organise attacks against US troops. Other officials said Mr Ghul was captured by Kurdish forces as he tried to enter northern Iraq last week and was then handed over to the US authorities.

"He was a killer. He was moving money and messages around South Asia and the Middle East. He's a part of this network of haters that we're dismantling," Mr Bush said in Little Rock, Arkansas. "He was captured in Iraq where he was helping al-Qa'ida to put pressure on our troops." Mr Bush said Mr Ghul reported directly to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged al-Qa'ida operative who US intelligence believes was responsible for planning the attacks on New York and Washington in 2001. He was captured last March in Pakistan and is being interrogated by US officials at an undisclosed location.

The capture of Mr Ghul could help those within the administration seeking to make the case that clear links existed between al-Qa'ida and the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The administration says it does not believe Iraq was involved in the 11 September attacks but some officials continue to claim that links between the two existed even though no evidence has been produced to support that.

* A federal judge has declared unconstitutional a section of the USA Patriot Act that bars giving expert assistance to groups designated foreign terrorist organisations. District Judge Audrey Collins said the ban is impermissibly vague.