Top insurgent leader captured in Iraq

April 6, 2006 at 11:16 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 6 (UPI) -- The U.S. military announced the capture of one of its top targets in Iraq Thursday, Muhammed Hila Hammad Ubaydi, aka Abu Ayman.

Abu Ayman was captured March 7, but the operation was not disclosed until April 6 when DNA testing proved his identity, according to U.S. Central Command. Three days after Ayman was in custody, the military announced the December 2005 capture of Abu Qatada, one of his Syrian lieutenants who had provided the information that led to Ayman's capture.

Abu Ayman was aide to the chief of staff of intelligence during the Saddam Hussein regime. When the government fell to the American invasion, he became the leader of the Secret Islamic Army in the Northern Babil Province, a largely Baathist suburb of Baghdad. According to the military, Abu Ayman has close ties to Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, who is the head of al-Qaida in Iraq.

Abu Ayman is the prime suspect in the kidnapping of Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena and other hostages, and is believed to have made assassination attempts on Iraqi government officials and to have been responsible for some of the most lethal improvised explosive device attacks against U.S and Iraqi forces.

The U.S. military said Iraqi forces captured Ayman in southern Baghdad in Al Mahmudiyah, a town in northern Babil, part of the so-called triangle of death.

"Ayman's capture was the result of a determined manhunt conducted by Iraqi intelligence professionals and several intelligence agencies within the Coalition," the Coalition Press Information Center said.

The U.S. military said it believes Ayman -- now in custody for a month -- will provide information about the terrorist and insurgent networks in Iraq.

It said the same thing last month when it announced the December capture of Abu Qatada, who provided information that apparently led to Ayman's location. Qatada headed the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Iraq. He is believed to be responsible for the assassination of two Iraqi government council members, among other crimes.

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