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Middle East
Held man 'not al-Qaeda's Iraq boss'
US military denies man arrested by Iraqi forces is al-Qaeda chief in Iraq
Last Modified: 10 May 2008 04:13 GMT

The US believes al-Muhajir is an explosives expert specialising  in the construction of car bombs [AFP]

The US military has denied that a man arrested in Iraq is Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, Al-Qaeda chief in Iraq, who carries a US bounty of five million dollars.
 
State television Al-Iraqiya reported on Thursday that a man calling himself as al-Muhajir was captured by Iraqi forces in the northern province of Nineveh.
But major Peggy Kageleiry, a US military spokeswoman, said on Friday that the detained individual was not al-Muhajir.
 
"Neither coalition forces nor Iraqi security forces detained or killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri. This guy had a similar name," she said.
When asked if the military confirmed al-Muhajir was not in the custody of security forces, she said: "I confirm that."

Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, spokesman for Iraq's interior ministry, had told Al-Iraqiya on Thursday that the detained man claimed he was al-Muhajir and that investigations were under way to verify his identity.

Sustained assaults

Khalaf said the man was arrested in a raid on Wednesday in the Wad Al-Hajar region of Nineveh province.

Mosul, the region's capital, is considered the last urban bastion of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, according to the US military.

US and Iraqi forces are involved in sustained military assaults targeting Al-Qaeda militants in Nineveh.
  
Khalaf said the arrest came after a man close to the detained individual said the Al-Qaeda chief was in a house in Wad Al-Hajar.

"The police then raided the area and captured the man who said  'I am Abu Hamza al-Muhajir,'" Khalaf said.

Al-Muhajir, whose real name, according to the military, is Abu Ayyub al-Masri, is an Egyptian national who was made the chief of the jihadist group in Iraq after a US air strike killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in June 2006, the US military said.
  
The US State Department has posted a five-million-dollar reward for information leading to al-Muhajir's arrest.

Source:
Agencies
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