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Pentagon: Top al Qaeda leader taken to Guantanamo

Story Highlights

• The CIA had been holding Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, the Pentagon says
• Agency reportedly took suspected al Qaeda operative into custody in 2006
• Al-Hadi helped coordinate Taliban attacks with al Qaeda, Pentagon says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. military has taken custody of a major al Qaeda figure and is holding him at the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Pentagon said Friday.

Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, described as a high-level member of al Qaeda, had been in CIA custody, the Pentagon said, but it provided no details on how long and where.

The CIA took al-Hadi into custody last year, a U.S. intelligence official said.

Al-Hadi "was one of al Qaeda's highest-ranking and experienced senior operatives at the time of his detention," the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon lists his key alias as Nashwan Abd al-Razzaq Abd al-Baqi.

The intelligence official said al-Hadi came into CIA custody after President Bush's September speech on the agency's program of interrogating high value-prisoners.

At that time, Bush said, there were "no terrorists" presently in the CIA program.

But he said that "as more high-ranking terrorists are captured, the need to obtain intelligence from them will remain critical -- and having a CIA program for questioning terrorists will continue to be crucial to getting life-saving information."

The intelligence official said al-Hadi may have been transferred to Guantanamo after the CIA gleaned all the useful information it could from him. There are now about 385 detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

The official described the militant's detention as "significant," saying he has "provided information on al Qaeda presence in a number of countries" while he was in CIA custody.

He also provided insights "into command and control operations and planning," the official said.

Born in 1961 in Mosul, Iraq, the militant joined al Qaeda late in the last decade, according to the intelligence official.

Al-Hadi was "clearly in the senior ranks," a member of a now-defunct 10-person governing council. He reportedly was involved in training programs.

A Pentagon fact sheet lists the following allegations:

  • Al-Hadi had been a key paramilitary commander in Afghanistan from the late '90s into this decade.
  • He was "in charge of cross-border attacks in Afghanistan against coalition forces."
  • He "directed plots to assassinate perceived opponents of al Qaeda," including a U.N. official and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
  • He had been attempting to return to Iraq "to manage al Qaeda affairs and possibly focus on operations outside Iraq against Western targets."
  • Al-Hadi met with al Qaeda leaders in Iran and urged them to back efforts in Iraq and cause "problems within Iran."
  • A rocket attack in fall 2003 against U.S. military forces in Afghanistan benefited from al-Hadi's leadership.
  • He was "known and trusted" by Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda's leader, and Ayman al-Zawahri, its No. 2 man, and "interacted with other senior al Qaeda planners and decision-makers." One of them cited is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the suspected 9/11 mastermind.
  • "Al-Hadi associated with leaders of other extremist groups allied with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Taliban."
  • He worked with the Taliban "to determine responsibility and lines of communication between Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan, specially with regard to the targeting of U.S. forces."
  • CNN's Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

    The Pentagon said Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi "was one of al Qaeda's highest-ranking and experienced senior operatives."



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