"US forces arrested Muthana Harith al-Dhari this morning as he turned up at the Um al-Quraa mosque, the headquarters of the committee," Ahmad Abd Al-Ghafur al-Sammarai of the AMS, Iraq's leading Sunni authority, said.

  

"This is the work of the occupation forces. They're here to intimidate and terrorise people not to rebuild our country," he added.

Al-Sammarai said he had no idea why al-Dhari had been arrested and called for all detainees of the occupation forces in Iraq to be released.


Witness speaks out

Aljazeera interviewed Amar Abd Al-Karim, who was accompanying al-Dhari when he was arrested, and he says the US forces stopped Dr al-Dhari's convoy and took him into custody.  

"We were on our way to the headquarters of the AMS, going out from the studio of the LBC (Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation), where Dr al-Dhari had given an interview.  

 

"A US patrol emerged suddenly and stopped our convoy. They searched the cars, and then asked us to step aside and called for reinforcements.

 

"A number of Humvees arrived with detecting devices. They gave us body scans, and told us that Dr Muthana and two of his companions were to be arrested because the device detected remains of explosives on Dr al-Dhari's hands."  

 

Abd Al-Karim said the group was enraged at the US's allegations and stressed that Dr al-Dhari was a guest in a TV interview.

 

"The US soldiers at the scene told us either we shut up, or we would be arrested with Dr al-Dhari," he said.

 

Appeal to journalists

 

Sabah Ahmad, the technical manager of the al-Basaer newspaper, told Aljazeera.net the staff condemned the arrest of their editor which they considered an illegal act.

 

"Journalists in Iraq condemn the arrest of Dr Muthana and we will ask media unions inside and outside Iraq to interfere and call on the US to free him.

 

"It appears that he was arrested for saying something in a broadcast interview that the US occupation authorities did not like," Ahmad said.