If the new leader of Alqaeda is captured in Iraq, what will change there ?! We doubt strong presence of Alqaeda in Iraq, as US troops are safe , and victims are mostly civilians .
Associated France Press (AFP) 3/10/2006
Iraq Al-Qaeda chief's days are numbered: government
by Ammar Karim
BAGHDAD (AFP) - The capture of the new Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader is imminent, a government official said after showing the first video images of the wanted man as Baghdad buzzed over revelations of a plot against the heavily fortified Green Zone.
"I can say we are very close to Abu Ayyub al-Masri and we say to him your days are numbered," Iraqi National Security Advisor Muwaffaq al-Rubaie told a televised news conference.
"Either your dead body or manacled hands will be brought before justice." he added.
The announcement came a day after a sudden curfew shut down the entire city after the discovery of an Al-Qaeda plot to detonate car bombs in the Green Zone, seat of the Iraqi government.
"We promise the Iraqi people that the next eid (feast) will be two eids," Rubaie said, referring to the festival celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
"One to celebrate the end of the fast, the other to celebrate the capture of Abu Hamza al-Masri."
On Friday the Al-Qaeda leader, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, broadcast an Internet audio message threatening a renewed offensive and a campaign to kidnap foreigners.
Rubaie bolstered his claim by citing Iraqi security operations across Iraq -- in particular operations by tribes in the western province of Anbar against Al-Qaeda.
"The Anbar tribes are cooperating with the government to eradicate all terrorists," he said. "This is a nightmare for Masri."
Masri's identity was first revealed by the US military in July, after the June killing of his predecessor and Al Qaeda in Iraq founder Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Masri was described as an Egyptian emigre with an extensive knowledge of explosives. The footage seized in Yusifiyah and broadcast Sunday showed a bespectacled man with an Egyptian accent explaining how to a rig a car with bombs.
Rubaie said the purpose of showing the video was to speed his capture and show Iraqis the "foreign" face of violence in the country.
Later Sunday gunmen rounded up and kidnapped 26 workers from a food plant in the lower income Amil neighbourhood of southwest Baghdad, the interior ministry said.
Mass kidnappings happen frequently in the capital for both political and criminal reasons, although in this case authorities believe the motive was for money.
"It was a criminal endeavor because they also stole three large refrigerators," Brigadier General Abdel Karim Khalaf said.
In Washington, the US ambassador to Baghdad said Iraq's continuing insurgency has taken a backseat to sectarian violence.
"I believe that a main part of the violence now is sectarian violence, violence between death squads associated with militias," Zalmay Khalilzad told CNN.
"It is true that the insurgency is still there and targeting us. And the terrorists are there, although I believe that Al-Qaeda terrorists in Iraq are weaker now than they were a while back, and that they are under pressure. But there is the sectarian violence that has increased."
Meanwhile traffic was moving again on Sunday with the curfew's end, but with the cars also came the bombs which killed two people and wounded 16 people.
The vehicle ban was originally prompted by US revelations that a security guard working for senior Sunni politician Adnan al-Dulaimi was involved in a plot to carry out multiple car bombings in the Green Zone.
A suspect apprehended Friday morning led to the guard of Dulaimi, and to information that eight car bombs were somewhere in the city, prompting the curfew.
Parliamentarians postponed Sunday's session, which would have seen the second reading of a contentious law on federalism that would lay down mechanisms to divide the country into autonomous regions.
"The session is postponed until tomorrow because of what happened with Dulaimi -- we want to know what is going on exactly," said a Shiite parliamentary bloc deputy.
US officials were careful to say the guard's arrest in no way implicated Dulaimi himself, but Shiite politicians demanded that any possible links be investigated -- provoking outrage from Sunni politicians.
Security officials said US and Iraqi forces took advantage of the curfew to mount several operations around Baghdad.
Residents of Sadr City, a teeming slum of two million inhabitants and a stronghold of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia, reported a joint US-Iraqi military operation early on Sunday.
The US military called it an operation by "specially trained Iraqi army forces... to capture a suspected terrorist" involved in kidnapping and murdering civilians in northeast Baghdad.
Two US soldiers were killed on Saturday in clashes with insurgents in the restive western Al-Anbar province, while another US soldier died near the northern city of Mosul in an accident involving a Humvee.
Elsewhere, in southeastern Iraq, two British soldiers were seriously injured by a roadside bomb, a British spokesman said.
In Diyala province a Shiite family of five -- including three children -- was murdered by gunmen who stopped their car, another civilian was shot in the provincial capital, and a policeman was killed by a sniper in the northern city of Mosul.