BAGHDAD, (Reuters) – Iraqi officials won’t know for a couple more days whether a man arrested this week is indeed the leader of an al Qaeda-affiliated insurgent group blamed for violence in Iraq, a senior military official said on Saturday.
Major General Qassim al-Moussawi, spokesman for Baghdad security operations, said documents discovered with the man arrested on Thursday suggested he was Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, head of the self-styled Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). “To obtain irrefutable results about Baghdadi’s identity, we are waiting for results of the DNA test and testimony from key al Qaeda leaders we have in custody who have worked with him,” Moussawi said. He said results of the investigation would be released in about two days.
Neither U.S. nor Iraqi officials have so far been able to confirm the man detained in Baghdad is Baghdadi, who has been reported killed and captured before.
Some security analysts believe Baghdadi does not exist, speculating he is a fictional character invented by al Qaeda in Iraq to give an Iraqi face to what is otherwise a foreign organisation. His name could be a title of sorts, passed from one person to another, analysts say.
If the man is Baghdadi, it may be a blow to Islamic extremists just as a spate of major bombings raise questions about whether Iraq is sliding back into greater sectarian violence. About 150 people have been killed by suicide bombers in the last two days alone.
The arrest could also be seen as a victory for the Iraqi forces that arrested him, who are seeking to assert their own abilities as the U.S. force of 137,000 prepares to withdraw fully from Iraq by the end of 2011.