Al-Qa'ida leader arrested in Iraq

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The Independent Online

The leader of al Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, has been arrested in the northern city of Mosul, an Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesman. Spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the arrest of al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, was confirmed to him by the Iraqi commander of the province.

Spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the arrest of al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, was confirmed to him by the Iraqi commander of the province.

There was no immediate confirmation or comment from US forces on the arrest. Mr Al-Askari did not say when the al Qaida leader was arrested.

News of the arrest was also reported by Iraqi state television.

"The commander of Ninevah military operations informed me that Iraqi troops captured Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, the leader of al Qaida in Iraq," Mr al-Askari told The Associated Press by telephone.

He did not have any further details, nor did he say when the al Qaida leader was arrested.

According to unconfirmed reports, however, he was caught this evening in the Tayran area in central Mosul, 225 miles (360km) north-west of Baghdad. Mosul is currently a major battleground for US forces and al Qaida.

Al-Masri took over al Qaida in Iraq after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed June 7, 2006 in a US air strike north-east of Baghdad.

US officials said al-Masri joined an extremist group led by al Qaida's number two official in 1982. He joined al Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in 1999 and trained as a car bomb expert before travelling to Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.

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