Iraqi forces said today that they had arrested one of the most wanted al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq, even as his suicide bombers killed more than 70 people in attacks in and around Baghdad.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, a leader of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, was held in the capital after a tip-off, said Major General Qasim Atta, Baghdad’s security spokesman.
The Islamic State of Iraq is a shadowy, al-Qaeda-linked, Islamist umbrella group that in 2006 declared an independent caliphate in mainly Sunni West Baghdad, as well as in areas to the north and west. Modelled on the Taleban in Afghanistan, it murdered and intimidated anyone who did not adhere to its strict Islamist rulings.
Iraqi security forces have reported al-Baghdadi’s death and capture on several different occasions in the past, as well as claiming to have captured the man believed to be al-Qaeda’s overall leader in the country, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
Some intelligence sources have denied that either man even exists. Local television reported he had been taken captive by Iraqi troops in eastern Baghdad. His detention will be a major blow to insurgents who have recently stepped up their activities with a series of high profile attacks. So little is known about Baghdadi there have been suggestions he was a fictitious character made up by al Qaeda to give the insurgency an Iraqi face.