- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

A senior al Qaeda commander, accused in an assassination plot against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and in attacks in Afghanistan, has been detained by U.S. authorities and transferred to the military prison at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said yesterday.

Abdul al Hadi al-Iraqi, an Iraqi national who joined al Qaeda in the late 1990s and has been identified as a top aide to founder Osama bin Laden, was captured last year while trying to make his way to Iraq “to manage al Qaeda’s affairs and possibly focus on operations outside Iraq against Western targets,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

Mr. Whitman declined to say when or where al-Iraqi was seized, but before being turned over to the Defense Department, he was held by the CIA. He also said al-Iraqi had met with al Qaeda members in Iran and was associated with leaders of other extremist groups allied with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Taliban.

He said al-Iraqi worked with the Taliban to determine lines of communication between Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, specifically about the targeting of U.S. forces.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to discuss details of al-Iraqi’s capture, but described him as “a veteran jihadist” and called his capture “a significant victory in the fight against terror.”

Al-Iraqi, also known as Nashwan Abdulrazaq Abdulbaqi, has been sought by the State Department since February 2005, when it described him as a top al Qaeda global deputy chosen by bin Laden to monitor al Qaeda operations in Iraq.

Listed by the State Department as a “high-value” detainee, al-Iraqi was the former internal operations chief for al Qaeda; has been linked with numerous attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and has been known to facilitate communication between al Qaeda in Iraq and al Qaeda. The State Department said al-Iraqi rose to the rank of major in Saddam Hussein’s army before moving to Afghanistan to fight against the former Soviet Union.

According to the State Department, al-Iraqi has a reputation for being a skilled and experienced commander, leading numerous terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. U.S. intelligence officials have described al-Iraqi as an al Qaeda commander and accountant.

Al-Iraqi joins 14 other “high-value” detainees transferred from the secret CIA program in September. Their cases have been put before Combatant Status Review Tribunals, panels of three military officers who assess the detainee’s “enemy combatant” status.

Other detainees include Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the September 11 attacks; Ramzi Binalshibh, who is said to have helped coordinate the attacks; Abu Zubaydah, thought to be a link between bin Laden and many al Qaeda cells; and Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, accused of coordinating the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

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