BAGHDAD, (AP) – The deputy commander of a radical Sunni Islamic group linked to al-Qaeda has been arrested in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said Tuesday.
The group, Ansar al-Islam, is believed by the military to be behind attacks on U.S. and Iraqi troops in Mosul, considered the last urban stronghold of al-Qaeda in Iraq, and elsewhere in the country.
Fakri Hadi Gari, also known as Abu Abbas and Mullah Halgurd, and nine other suspected members were arrested July 24 during a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation, the U.S. military said.
Described as a key operative, Gari is accused of organizing attacks as well as recruiting and financing operations, the military said. He also is accused of coordinating the movement of insurgents across the borders of Iraq.
Spanish authorities have said a cell connected to a group also named Ansar al-Islam was behind the March 11, 2004, Madrid bombings that killed 191 people and wounded around 1,800. It is not clear that the two groups are the same, however.
Among those arrested in Mosul was a man described as a “financial emir” as well as driver for other key leaders of Ansar al-Islam, the statement said, which added that the arrests came following investigations by Iraqi army personnel and police.
Meanwhile, the Iraqi military identified the man suspected of killing a well-known Iraqi TV journalist, who was abducted while covering the Feb. 22, 2006, bombing of a Shiite mosque north of Baghdad that ignited more than a year of savage sectarian battles.
Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi told reporters that Yasser Mohammad al-Takhy was arrested Saturday in southwest Baghdad along with three others.
Al-Moussawi released a videotaped confession of the man in which he said he was working with the Army of Mohammad, an al-Qaeda-backed group, when he helped kidnap Atwar Bahjat of the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya news channel.
Al-Takhy said in videotape that he raped Bahjat before dragging her out of the car and shooting her.
The popular reporter’s bullet-riddled body was found outside Samarra, north of Baghdad, a few days after the abduction.