BAGHDAD, Iraq – Interior Ministry forces captured a top aide to al-Qaida in
Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi during a raid in western Iraq, a security official said Monday.
The official, a member of the ministry’s counterinsurgency Wolf Brigade, identified the key al-Qaida figure as Abu al-Farouq, who was previously unknown. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
The officer said al-Farouq and five other al-Qaida operatives were captured based on a tip from residents near al-Bakr, about 30 miles west of the insurgent stronghold of Ramadi.
“Abou al-Farouq, a Syrian, was in charge of planning and financing militant groups operating in Ramadi while the other five are responsible of attacking Iraqi and coalition forces,” the officer told The Associated Press.
Forces of the Interior Ministry, under the control of the country’s majority Shiite Muslims, are routinely accused by minority Sunnis of targeting civilians within their community.
Also Monday, the Defense Ministry reported Iraqi security forces had killed 35 insurgents and arrested 487 in nationwide raids since Wednesday, when bombers blew up a major Shiite Muslim shrine in Samarra, 60 miles north of Baghdad.
“All of them are Iraqis and affiliated to different terrorist groups and especially al-Qaida in Iraq,” Maj. Gen. Jassim Mohamed told The Associated Press. “But we don’t have confirmed reports that they were behind Samara bombings.”