Zarqawi associates arrested, says Iraqi official

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The Independent Online

A senior Iraqi security official said today that the government had arrested two close associates of terror mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The announcement came just days before historic elections that Zarqawi's group has vowed to disrupt.

Qassim Dawoud, a top security adviser in the government of interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, gave few details of the two arrested men, but called them "important leading members" of Zarqawi's group.

One had headed al-Zarqawi's operations in Baghdad, said Dawoud, the minister of state for national security in Allawi's government.

That man had met with al-Zarqawi more than 40 times over three months, Dawoud said at a news conference in Baghdad.

"He was also involved in the financial support and other logistic operations for the support of the terrorist al-Zarqawi," Dawoud said.

The mid-January arrests were made based on intelligence information, the official said.

Zarqawi's group is blamed for a series of deadly attacks in Iraq. US officials have said other attacks have been carried out by former members of Saddam Hussein's Baathist regime and that is unclear if the two groups are coordinating.