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Iraq Transition

Iraqi ministry: Militant leader arrested in Baghdad

Story Highlights

• Abu Omar al-Baghdadi said to be leader of Islamic State of Iraq
• Group has claimed responsibility for attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces
• Al-Baghdadi reportedly identified by man arrested with him
• U.S. has not confirmed arrest
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the militant group Islamic State of Iraq, was arrested Friday in western Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said.

The al Qaeda-affiliated group last week posted a video on the Web that showed the execution of a group of Interior Ministry workers they allegedly kidnapped.

One Web site that typically carries the group's messages said the men were killed to retaliate for the alleged rape of a Sunni woman by police, whose ranks are made up largely of Shiite members. (Full story)

A high-ranking Interior Ministry official said al-Baghdadi was arrested a few hours after the Iraqi army initiated an operation in a village in the Abu Ghraib district.

A number of al-Baghdadi's aides were also arrested, the official said. Neither the Iraqi police nor multinational forces were involved in the operation.

One of the arrested insurgents revealed al-Baghdadi's identity, The Associated Press reported.

"One of the terrorists who was arrested with him confessed that the one in our hands is al-Baghdadi," said Brig. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman of the Baghdad security operation, according to AP.

U.S. officials said they had not been told of the arrest, and U.S. forces in Baghdad said they did not have al-Baghdadi in custody.

Al-Baghdadi, whose name means "from Baghdad," is the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. The Sunni insurgency group has claimed responsibility for many attacks against the United States and Iraqi forces in Iraq, including the downing of U.S. helicopters.

The Islamic State of Iraq was formerly known as the Mujahedeen Shura Council, a group formed in December 2005 after al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi called on insurgency groups to unite their fight against the "infidels."

After the death of al-Zarqawi in a U.S. raid in June 2006, Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, took over as head of al Qaeda in Iraq and leader of the Mujahedeen Shura Council.

The Islamic State of Iraq was formed in October 2006 to replace the council, and all of the group's members pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

Al-Masri pledged his allegiance to al-Baghdadi, putting his claimed 12,000 al Qaeda in Iraq men at "the service of the Islamic State of Iraq."

Al-Baghdadi announced his intentions to counter President Bush's plan to increase troop levels in Iraq in an audio statement dated February 3.

"In order to kill the beast, we must get it to leave its den, and it has done so," he said of the United States.

"The idiot sent his army to where we laid ambushes and traps for it," he said.

Al-Baghdadi is referred to as the "commander of the faithful" and the "Emir" of the Islamic State of Iraq.

Other developments

  • Iraq's neighbors and members of the U.N. Security Council are expected to meet in Baghdad on Saturday to discuss how the international community can help the Iraqi government stop violence, strengthen its economy and create a political process to address the country's sectarian conflict. It is unclear whether U.S. delegates will meet directly with Iranian counterparts, a move that would end decades of talking through third parties. Any discussion, the United States has said, would be confined to events in Iraq. (Full story)
  • Iraq's prime minister left the Green Zone to tour areas of Baghdad on Friday, AP reported. Protected by machine gun-toting guards, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki talked on the streets with bystanders and police to show the U.S.-led security operation is making progress. (Full story)
  • Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

    This image from a video posted on the Internet purports to show the execution of Iraqi security guards by the Islamic State of Iraq.


    • Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
    • Interactive: Sectarian divide
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