BAGHDAD (AFP) – Two insurgents with links to Iraq’s most wanted man, Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, have been arrested in the turbulent city of Ramadi, the US Marines said.
“Two key leaders of a terrorist group claiming affiliation with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s terrorist network were captured by soldiers of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of First Marine Division … in Al Ramadi recently,” the marines said in a statement.
Saleh Arugayan Kahlil, also called Abu Ubaydah, and Bassim Mohammad Hazem, also known as Abu Khattab, were captured respectively on December 8 and 12 in Ramadi, the marines said.
The pair were leaders of a cell the marines called the “Harun terrorist network”.
Marines accused the group of executing 11 Iraqi national guardsmen, blowing up booby-trap devices and car bombs that killed or wounded dozens of Iraqis, as well as smuggling foreign fighters into the country to fight the new US-backed Iraqi government.
The arrests were linked to tips-offs from Iraqi civilians, a rare occurrence in Ramadi’s bleak atmosphere of urban war, where many are too intimidated to help the Americans.
The marines said, “many foreign fighters were also detained” but did not provide a number.
Ramadi, the capital of troublesome Al-Anbar province, is riven by daily urban battles between marines and insurgents that have cost dozens of lives and decimated the city.
Al-Qaeda-linked Zarqawi, who has a 25-million-dollar price on his head, is believed by the Americans to have contacts and affiliations with insurgent cells around Ramadi as well as in the rest of central Iraq.
Zarqawi’s group has claimed responsibility for a string of bombings, kidnappings and executions in the war-torn country.