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House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, criticized Democratic leaders for their attempt to force the Bush administration to pull out of Iraq.

“Had the majority been successful in forcing a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq earlier this year, Mashadani would be free and hatching plots to kill innocent people today,” Mr. Boehner said. “This is a great victory for the troops, and it should remind all of us that they are fighting in the right place, at the right time, and for the right reasons. Al Qaeda made Iraq the central front in the global war on terror, which is why we must confront them there — not just for the safety and security of the Iraqis but for the American people, too.”

Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said that al-Mashadani’s capture is an important step in limiting al Qaeda’s growth and protecting American interests from future attacks.

“Clearly, the capture of this leader will demoralize al Qaeda and raise the morale of Americans,” said Mr. Hunter, a 2008 presidential hopeful. “It’s a lot more significant than the capture of one of the sectarian leaders. [Al-Mashadani] clearly had ambitions to expand his operations in Iraq — and therefore his capture is especially important.”

Al-Mashadani is a close associate of Abu Ayyub Masri, the Egyptian-born leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. He was a leader in the Ansar al-Sunna terrorist group before joining al Qaeda more than two years ago, when he began serving as an intermediary between Masri, bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri, Gen. Bergner said.

Gen. Bergner said that the purported chief for the Iraqi organization, Omar al-Baghdadi, is an Iraqi actor and didn’t exist.