Iraq Al-Qaeda boss Abu Omar al-Baghdadi 'is captured'

An Iraqi woman grieves the death of her son and two grandchildren in a suicide attack in Baghdad
(Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
A Baghdad woman grieves after her son and two grandchildren died in a bomb attack, the latest killings in a surge of violence
Iraqi forces said yesterday that they had arrested one of the most wanted al-Qaeda leaders in Iraq, even as his suicide bombers killed more than 70 people in attacks in and around Baghdad.
Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, a leader of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, was held in the capital after a tip-off, said Major General Qasim Atta, Baghdad’s security spokesman.
The Islamic State of Iraq is a shadowy, al-Qaeda-linked, Islamist umbrella group that in 2006 declared an independent caliphate in mainly Sunni West Baghdad, as well as in areas to the north and west. Modelled on the Taleban in Afghanistan, it murdered and intimidated anyone who did not adhere to its strict Islamist rulings.
Iraqi security forces have reported al-Baghdadi’s death and capture on several different occasions in the past, as well as claiming to have captured the man believed to be al-Qaeda’s overall leader in the country, Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Some intelligence sources have denied that either man even exists, claiming that they are fronts either to throw the security forces off the scent or, in the case of al-Baghdadi, to give the terrorist network an Iraqi face.
The killing in June 2006 of the most notorious al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was expected to undermine the organisation, but the main blow to the terrorist networks came when their local Sunni insurgent allies turned on them, sickened by their indiscriminate bloodshed and refusal to engage in any political dialogue, and tempted by US offers of rapprochement through the Awakening movement.
Despite that, al-Qaeda and other terrorist networks have proven capable of carrying out a number of bloody attacks in recent weeks that peaked yesterday with two suicide bombings that killed 73 people.
The deadliest was near Baqouba, deep in the territory that al-Baghdadi’s organisation once controlled. A suicide bomber walked into a crowded restaurant and killed at least 45 diners, including many pilgrims from neighbouring Iran.
A further 28 people, including five children and 10 policemen, were killed in another suicide bombing as police distributed food aid to displaced people in an abandoned building in southeastern Baghdad, security officials said. More than 100 people were wounded in the two blasts.
The Pentagon's top Middle East adviser said this week that insurgent attacks are likely to increase as US forces start to leave, first from Iraq’s cities by the end of June and from the country in general in two years, according to a timetable agreed with the Iraqi government.