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Iraq Transition

Capture a 'severe blow' to al Qaeda in Iraq

Story Highlights

• Al-Suaidi linked to Samarra mosque bombing in February
• Iraqi forces had tracked al-Suaidi since June death of al-Zarqawi
• Number of U.S. troops killed in 'war on terror' now exceeds 9/11 toll
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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Al Qaeda's No. 2 operative in Iraq, Hamed Jumaa Al Saeedi, has been arrested, the U.S. military and Iraq's national security adviser announced Sunday.

Al Saeedi, also known as Abu Rana and Abu Humam, is said to be second in command in the terrorist group al Qaeda in Iraq, behind Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

Al-Masri succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after he was killed during a U.S. airstrike in June.

"This is a very important development," Iraq's Planning Minister Barham Salih told CNN.

"It comes in the wake of killing of Zarqawi and also a number of Zarqawi associates. Deliberate intelligence work both by Iraqi forces as well as multinational forces have dealt a very severe blow to al Qaeda organization in Iraq." (Watch why capture considered so important -- 2:32)

Al Saeedi and one of his followers were captured during a raid Friday that ended in a residential building, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie said at a news conference, according to CNN translators.

Important information on al Saeedi and his location that led to his arrest was gained after former al Qaeda in Iraq leader al-Zarqawi's death.

"We continued to track him down [in the Salaheddin province] and then he moved to north of Baquba in mid-June," al-Rubaie said. "He was arrested without any harm to civilians."

The security adviser added that al Saeedi was "directly responsible" for Haitham al-Badri, the man believed to have been the mastermind of the Askariya Mosque bombing in Samarra in February. Sunni-Shiite sectarian strife escalated after that attack.

A Pentagon report issued Friday noted a 15 percent jump in attacks and a 51 percent increase in Iraqi casualties. The report -- covering June, July and August -- calls the level of violence a "setback" affecting "all other measures of stability."

The Iraqi government, "as we promised the Iraqi people," will continue fighting terrorism and "the terrorists who want to plant the seeds of fear in the heart of all Iraqis and agitate the sectarian sedition between Iraqi people," Al Rubaie said.

Attacks near Baghdad, Baquba and Mosul

Coalition officials also said Sunday that one of the most wanted insurgents in the Euphrates River Valley city of Rawah was killed a day earlier by Iraqi police during a counterinsurgency operation there.

Sadam Shihab Ahmad helped coordinate insurgent operations and is suspected of involvement in the beheading of a Rawah policeman this year, a news release said.

Elsewhere in Iraq on Sunday, 16 other people, including four police officers and four American troops, were killed in bombing and shooting incidents, officials said.

Four people were killed and 21 others wounded when a bomb exploded in an outdoor market in Khalis, a town about 20 km (12 miles) north of Baquba, at about 7 p.m., Baquba police said.

In Baquba itself, four people were killed by gunmen in three separate incidents Sunday afternoon, police said. Earlier in the day, another shooting incident -- this one targeting a police patrol -- left two officers dead and another wounded, police said.

Baquba is about 60 km (37 miles) north of Baghdad.

In Mosul, about 420 km (261 miles) north of Baghdad, a car bomb targeted an Iraqi police patrol in the eastern part of the city, killing two police officers and wounding three others, according to police. The incident took place at about 3 p.m.

In the capital, a roadside bomb targeted a police patrol in eastern Baghdad's Baladiyat district, wounding two police officers, a Baghdad police official said.

4 U.S. troops, 2 Iraqi police officers killed

Two U.S. soldiers and two Marines were reported killed in action in Iraq Sunday, raising the total number of Americans killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts above the number of Americans and foreign nationals killed in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The Bush administration has consistently linked the Afghan and Iraq conflicts with an overall war on terror, which was sparked by the September 11 attacks.

The 9/11 attacks killed 2,973 people, not including the 19 hijackers who crashed four commercial airliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania. The number of troops and military contractors who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan has now reached 2,974.

Of those, 2,638 American troops and seven military contractors have been killed in the war in Iraq.

The two soldiers were killed Sunday when their vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad, the U.S. military said in a statement.

In a separate statement, the military said one Marine died from wounds sustained on Friday and a second died from wounds sustained Sunday. Both were operating in Iraq's Anbar province.

Other developments

  • A U.S. Army officer has recommended that four U.S. troops accused of killing three Iraqi detainees in May face the death penalty if convicted, lead defense lawyer Paul Bergrin told CNN Sunday. Bergrin predicted the soldiers would be exonerated. A hearing focused last month on the shooting deaths of three detainees during an operation in Salaheddin province in May.
  • Coalition forces formally transferred control of the controversial and now "empty" Abu Ghraib prison to Iraq on Saturday, "effectively" ending "detainee operations at the former coalition-run theater internment facility," the U.S.-led coalition said in a statement.
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