U.S. military captures top insurgency commander

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

BAGHDAD The U.S. military has captured what officials termed a senior Sunni commander in Iraq, near the Syrian border.

The military said the Marine Corps detained the top commander in Al Anbar province in western Iraq. The commander, who was not identified, was one of six insurgents captured on Nov. 21 in the Anbar town of Haqlaniya.

"One of the six detainees is believed to be a high-ranking cell leader of anti-Iraqi forces operating in and around the Al Anbar province," the military said in a statement on Monday. The military did not provide additional details.

Al Anbar has been deemed the biggest challenge for the U.S. military in Iraq. Much of the province, which borders Syria, has been under insurgency control over the last 18 months, Middle East Newsline reported. They have included Faluja and Ramadi.

Officials said the suspected senior Sunni commander was captured during a raid of Haqlaniyah, along the Euphrates River. Marines also found arms and munitions in the counter-insurgency operation.

The U.S. military has intensified its search for Sunni commanders in Al Anbar, many of whom were said to have escaped from Faluja over the last month. They said Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi and his leading aides have escaped Faluja and were sited in northern Iraq.

The Kurdish newspaper Al Taakhi quoted Iraqi police sources as saying that Al Zarqawi was believed to have been injured in the U.S.-led assault on Faluja. The newspaper quoted a police source from the northern city of Kirkuk as saying that Al Zarqawi was seen arriving in Tuz Khormato, about 75 kilometers south of Kirkuk.

Al Zarqawi's leading aide, Omar Hadid, was also said to have been injured in the battle for Faluja. Officials believe he was still in or around Faluja and leading the Sunni insurgency against the U.S.-led coalition force. The military has reported eliminating most pockets of resistance in the city.

For his part, Hadid told the Qatari-based A-Jazeera satellite channel that he was not a senior commander in Faluja. He told A-Jazeera that he is 24 years old, never met Al Zarqawi and served in Saddam Hussein's military for three months.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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