"The central criminal court of Iraq issued a verdict of life imprisonment against four criminals, known to be members of al-Qaida in Iraq," a government statement said on Wednesday.

  

The defendants were foreign fighters from Algeria, Jordan and Syria who entered Iraq illegally and committed crimes "ranging from murder and terrorism to possession of illegal weapons", it said.

  

The four, named as Mahmud Abdul Hadi, Mohammed Atala Mohammed, Mohammed bin Rabit Saadam and Ismail Mohammed Abdullah, belonged to a bombing cell in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul led by Abu Talha, the statement added.

  

The US military charges that Abu Talha, also known as Mohammed Khalaf Shakar, was a top aide to the al-Qaida frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Talha was captured in Mosul last June.