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CNN BREAKING NEWS

Suspected Terrorist with Links to Al Qaeda Captured in Iraq

Aired April 29, 2003 - 15:43   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And the "Breaking News" comes to us by way of our national security correspondent David Ensor. Possibility of a big arrest of a suspected terrorist with links to al Qaeda -- David.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Miles, senior administration officials are telling us a member of an al Qaeda affiliated terror group operating in Iraq has been captured by U.S. forces. Sources say the individual is a member of a group operating in the west Baghdad under the leadership of Aba Mussab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian believe to be the mastermind of the assassination of American diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman Last October.

Al-Zarqawi was said to have received medical treatment in Baghdad in May and June of 2002 after being injured in Afghanistan during the war. His leg was amputated, U.S. officials say, by an Iraqi surgeon. Before the war, you may recall secretary of state Colin Powell pointed to Zarqawi's al Qaeda affiliated group that he said was operating inside Baghdad as evidence of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq.

Officials say they do not know yet whether the newly captured individual, who has not yet been named by U.S. officials, had any connections with the government of Iraq, though that, of course is going to be a subject of great interest now. I should stress this is not Zarqawi himself. This is one of his associates who has been captured by U.S. forces in Iraq. Obviously the interrogation of this man will be very, very closely watched because the U.S. wants to find any evidence it can find of connections between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda. And the fact that this group that Zarqawi, and the others were allowed to operate in Baghdad was one of the things the administration pointed to in the run up to the war.

O'BRIEN: The Bush administration made a lot of the potential links to terrorism in the war in Iraq. Since that time we've had this case. We've had Abu Abbas.

How many other shreds of evidence are out there that Saddam Hussein was aiding and abetting large-scale terroristic operations?

ENSOR: Well, there were one or two others, sort of aging terrorists from yester year who were given sanctuary for some time in Baghdad. And those were, of course, pointed to. What was of real interest was this particular group here that Zarqawi led, and that this individual was a member of, according to U.S. intelligence, a group that they say had ties to al Qaeda. Zarqawi after all fought in Afghanistan against the U.S. on the side of al Qaeda and the Taliban. And he had been responsible for at least the murder of that one American and perhaps some other terrorist incidents as well against U.S. targets. So the fact that he was given shelter, and that this group was given shelter in Iraq was very, very closely watched by the United States, and a cause of great concern. One of the reasons why President Bush talked about the Iraqi regime as a regime that supported terrorism -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: David Ensor, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

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