BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) # A senior al Qaeda operative was captured Thursday in Iraq by friendly foreign forces and turned over to U.S. intelligence personnel, senior U.S. officials said.
A U.S. official told CNN that Ghul is a “longtime facilitator, operator” within al Qaeda, and a “significant player.”
It is believed that Ghul was captured soon after his arrival in Iraq, the official said.
Earlier Friday, Pentagon sources announced that U.S. forces had captured a man described as a top lieutenant to a man connected to Ansar al-Islam, a Kurdish guerrilla group that U.S. officials say is linked to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.
Ansar al-Islam is accused of attacking U.S. troops in northern Iraq.
The suspect, identified as Husam al Yemeni, was captured last week along with other suspects during a raid near Fallujah in central Iraq, sources told CNN.
He is said to be a key associate of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi. Pentagon officials call the capture “significant” and say it suggests they may be getting closer to finding Zarqawi.
In his address to the United Nations on February 5, 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell named Al-Zarqawi’s presence in northern Iraq as evidence of a “sinister nexus between Iraq and the al Qaeda terrorist network.”
Meanwhile, senior U.S. military officials said U.S.-led coalition forces are making progress in their hunt for Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, the highest-level Saddam Hussein loyalist still on the run.
Senior coalition sources have said they believe Ibrahim is responsible for organizing resistance fighters in Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi, Samarra and Tikrit.
The guerrilla insurgency continued this week, with most activity in Baghdad and the “Sunni Triangle,” the region north and west of the capital. The latter saw three attacks in a 24-hour period Wednesday and Thursday that killed nine people, including two U.S. soldiers.
Intelligence from Iraqis is helping coalition forces zero in on Ibrahim’s possible location, a U.S. military source said.
Ibrahim, No. 6 on the U.S. list of the 55 most-wanted Iraqis, was vice chairman of Iraq’s Revolutionary Command Council and held a number of other high-level posts in Saddam’s government.
Coalition intelligence sources said they believe he has been using underground tunnels and safe houses.