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U.S. reports capture of al Qaeda in Iraq leader

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- U.S.-led forces captured a senior al Qaeda leader who was responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths and housed foreign fighters who carried out suicide bombings, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

The leader, who was not identified, was arrested in a raid in Mosul on December 14, the military said in a statement.

"The terrorist leader was attempting to flee from the location when Coalition Forces chased him across a street and detained him," the statement said.

It said the suspect served as al Qaeda's military chief in Mosul in 2005, and then took up the same job in western Baghdad.

"During that time, he coordinated car vehicle-borne improvised explosives device attacks and kidnap for ransom operations in Baghdad," the military said. It cited reports that said he organized an attempt to shoot down a U.S. military helicopter in May this year.

"After a few months he fled Baghdad due to Coalition Forces closing in on him," the statement said.

The military said the capture would lead them closer to Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who took over as leader of al Qaedda in Iraq after his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in June.

Mowaffak al-Rubaie, the Iraqi government's national security adviser, said this month that 60 percent of al Qaeda in Iraq's leadership has now been captured or killed.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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