- The Washington Times - Monday, September 25, 2006

From combined dispatches

BAGHDAD — British forces said they killed a top terrorist leader yesterday, identified by Iraqi officials as an al Qaeda leader who had escaped from a U.S. prison in Afghanistan and returned to Iraq.

Omar al-Farouq was killed in a pre-dawn raid by 250 British troops from the Princess of Wales Royal Regiment on his home in Basra, 340 miles southeast of Baghdad, British forces spokesman Maj. Charlie Burbridge said.

“We had information that a terrorist of considerable significance was hiding in Basra, as a result of that information we conducted an operation in an attempt to arrest him,” Maj. Burbridge he said by telephone from southern Iraq. “During the attempted arrest, Omar Farouq was killed, which is regrettable because we wanted to arrest him.”

U.S. leaders have described al-Farouq as the top al Qaeda operative in Southeast Asia. He was caught in Indonesia in 2002 and held at a high-security detention center at Bagram Air Base north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, until his escape last year.

A Basra police officer, speaking on the condition of anonymity for security reasons, confirmed that it was the same man, adding that al-Farouq was known to be an expert in bomb making. The officer said al-Farouq went by the name Mahmoud Ahmed while living in Basra.

Al-Farouq was one of four al Qaeda suspects who broke out of the prison in Bagram, the main U.S. base in Afghanistan, in July 2005.

It was an embarrassing incident for the U.S. military, and the Pentagon waited until November to confirm that the man had escaped. The delay in releasing his name upset Indonesia, which had arrested al-Farouq in 2002 and then turned him over to the United States, which then shipped him to Afghanistan.

The al Qaeda leader and the three others picked locks and got around a minefield to get out of the prison, then managed to evade a massive manhunt. They later appeared in a video sent to the Dubai-based television station Al Arabiya and boasted of their feat.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s feuding ethnic and sectarian groups moved ahead yesterday with forming a 27-member committee to consider amending the constitution after their leaders agreed to delay any division of the country into autonomous states until 2008.

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