U.S. captures Ansar Al Islam leader

Thursday, June 10, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. military was said to have captured the mastermind of a leading Iraqi insurgency group who received training from Al Qaida.

Iraqi officials said Umar Baziyani, captured on June 4 in Baghdad, was a leader of Ansar Al Islam, which split from Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi. Baziyani was said to have been one of the few Iraqi insurgents trained in Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan in the late 1990s.

Baziyani then became a senior operative of Ansar Al Islam, led by Ali Abdullah Al Shafai. Al Shafai and others were said to have been ordered to form Ansar Al Islam in northern Iraq in wake of the Al Qaida suicide attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.

Baziyani was said to have been active in several Sunni insurgency groups in Iraq over the last few years. They included Tawhid, a group that emerged from Jund Al Islam, under the leadership of Al Shafai, as well as Ansar Al Sunna, a splinter group of Ansar Al Islam.

At the outbreak of the U.S.-led war in Iraq in March 2003, officials said, Baziyani and his colleagues fled northern Iraq for the Iranian border.

They returned to Iraq from Iran several months later to join the Sunni insurgency in central Iraq.

A senior Iraqi security official in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Sirkout Hassan Jalal, told the London-based A-Sharq Al Awsat daily that Baziyani did not participate in insurgency attacks on the U.S.-led coalition. But Jalal, director of security of the PUK in Suleimaniya, said Baziyani was the leading planner of what the Kurdish official termed terrorist strikes and sought to torpedo any agreement between the PUK and Islamic groups in northern Iraq.

U.S. military officials said Baziyani formed contacts with several insurgency groups was connected to a series of attacks on coalition forces in Iraq. They said Baziyani has been interrogated and provided information to coalition forces.

"Baziyani, an associate of terrorist leader Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, is known to have ties to several extremist terrorist groups in Iraq, and is believed to be responsible for the death and injury of scores of innocent Iraqi citizens," U.S. Central Command said in a statement. "Authorities say Baziyani is also wanted in connection with anti-coalition activities."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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