BAGHDAD (AFP) — The Iraqi military announced the capture on Thursday of the man they say is the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, as at least 73 people were killed in two bloody suicide bombings.
"Abu Omar al-Baghdadi was arrested today in Baghdad," the capital's security spokesman Major General Qassim Atta told AFP. "It was Iraqi forces who arrested him based on an intelligence tipoff from someone."
Baghdadi is said to be the leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, a self-styled umbrella organisation for Al-Qaeda-affiliated insurgent groups fighting US and Iraqi forces that has pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden.
But he has been reported captured or killed several times in the past, and the US military has accused him of being a ruse designed to put an Iraqi face on an organisation that has always been led by foreign fighters.
In July 2007 a US military spokesman said Baghdadi was a fictional character and that the voice on audiotapes released in his name is that of an actor.
However Atta said on Thursday that Baghdadi will be put on show after being questioned.
"He will be interrogated and then we will show him on television," he said, without saying when.
The US military maintains that the real leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq is Abu Hamza al-Muhajir -- better known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri -- a veteran Egyptian militant named Al-Qaeda chief in June 2006 following the death of his better-known Jordanian predecessor Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in a US air raid.
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