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Iraq Transition

U.S. military: Al Qaeda leader in Mosul captured

Abu Talha 'gave up without a fight'



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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- The U.S. military on Thursday reported the capture of a man described as al Qaeda's leader in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Donald Alston identified him as Abu Talha -- whose actual name is Muhammad Khalaf Shakar -- and said he was captured on Tuesday.

"Talha has been one of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's most trusted operations agents in Iraq," Alston said. "This is a major defeat for the al Qaeda organization in Iraq."

"Numerous reports indicated he wore a suicide vest 24 hours a day and stated that he would never surrender. Instead, Talha gave up without a fight," Alston said.

Talha surrendered to multinational forces in a quiet neighborhood in Mosul, Alston said, after information from Iraqi civilians contributed to his capture.

Civilians providing such information indicates they are taking steps against the "increasingly unpopular insurgency," he said.

Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi, wanted by U.S.-led forces for terrorist attacks in Iraq, pledged his allegiance to Osama bin Laden in October. The United States has posted a $25 million bounty for al-Zarqawi's capture or death.

Also on Thursday, a car bomb exploded at an oil facility in Kirkuk and wounded at least five Iraqi soldiers, an Iraqi military commander said.

The bomb, apparently targeting an Iraqi army convoy, hit an entrance to the Northern Oil Co., a state-run company responsible for the drilling, transport, and refining of Iraqi crude.

In Baghdad on Thursday, a remotely detonated car bomb wounded five Iraqi soldiers and an Iraqi civilian, Iraqi police said.

On Baghdad's airport road, a suicide car bomb struck a police commando patrol Thursday, killing four commandos and wounding 22, police said.

The attack vehicle was a BMW carrying at least 200 kilograms of explosives, police said.

Iraqi security

During his Thursday news conference, Gen. Alston also said coalition troops are learning lessons from two recent deadly attacks involving infiltration of Iraqi security forces.

Suicide bombers made their way onto two Iraqi bases, killing 23 soldiers at a dining facility at an Iraqi army post in Khalis on Wednesday and three Wolf Brigade police commandos in Baghdad on Saturday.

In the Saturday killings, Alston said the attacker was "a murderer who, in fact, had found a way to get credentials ... and then he used those credentials to get the access that he did and to perform that deed."

Regarding the bombing at the Iraqi base on Wednesday, Alston said the bomber was "an impostor wearing Iraqi army clothes, going into a restaurant, sitting down at a table waiting for more officers to come in so that he could optimize the lethality that was wrapped around his body and cause as much death and destruction as he could."

Alston said the attack "speaks to a need to improve force protection procedures around these facilities to preclude that from happening."

Other developments

  • A New York National Guard sergeant has been charged with killing his company commander and operations officer at a U.S. base in northern Iraq, the military announced Thursday. Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez, of Troy, New York, faced two counts of premeditated murder in the June 7 killings of Capt. Phillip Esposito, the company commander, and 1st Lt. Louis Allen, the company's operations officer. Martinez is being held at a U.S. base in Kuwait, military officials in Baghdad said.
  • The chief judge of Mosul's criminal court and his driver were shot to death in a drive-by shooting Thursday morning in the city's western Palestine neighborhood, a court official said. Judge Salem Mahmud Haj Ali was on his way to work when gunmen in a vehicle opened fire on his car, said the official.
  • The 55-member Iraqi legislative committee -- which is drafting a new national constitution -- has decided to add 25 Sunni Arabs. Fifteen will be full members and 10 will have advisory roles, the panel chief said Thursday. The move is an attempt to pull Sunni Arabs into a crucial phase of a political process dominated by Shiite Arabs and Kurds. A permanent constitution, as spelled out by the country's transitional administrative law, must be written by August 15 and a referendum on it must be staged in the autumn.
  • CNN's Jane Arraf, with troops in Anbar province, contributed to this report, along with CNN's Chris Burns, Jennifer Eccleston, Kevin Flower, Ayman Mohyeldin, Kianne Sadeq and Mohammed Tawfeeq.

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