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Top Zarqawi Aide Arrested in Iraq

Sami Mohammed Ali Said al-Jaaf, also known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, was arrested during a Jan. 15 raid in Baghdad, along with two other militants linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s terror group, a government statement said.

Al-Jaaf was allegedly behind most of the car bombings in Baghdad, including those on Iraqi police forces and police stations, since the U.S.-led invasion began in March 2003. The August 2003 attack on the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed the top U.N. envoy in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello and 21 others, was “planned and directed by two others affiliated with Abu Omar,” the statement said, according to the Associated Press.

Al-Jaaf “confessed to building approximately 75 percent of the car bombs used in attacks in Baghdad since March 2003,” said Thaer al-Naqib, spokesman for interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

According to the government statement, al-Jaaf built the car bomb used to attack a shrine in the Shiite holy city of Najaf that killed more than 85 people, including Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, in August 2003, and assembled the car bomb used to assassinate Izzadine Saleem, president of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council in May.

The suspect has been in custody for about 10 days, but his arrest was announced only a week before the Jan. 30 elections in which Allawi is running.

The announcement of his arrest came hours after Zarqawi’s group claimed responsibility for a suicide car bomb blast near Allawi’s party office in Baghdad, which wounded 10 people.

Zarqawi, appointed by al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as his top deputy in Iraq, has claimed responsibility for some of the grisliest hostage beheadings and suicide bombings to hit the country.

In an audio tape posted on the Internet on Sunday, Zarqawi vowed all-out war against the elections and described those planning to participate as “infidel voters,” Reuters reported.

“Attacks on innocent civilians will likely occur in the coming days, but the Iraqi interim government and multinational forces have increased security throughout Iraq to diminish his ability to attack Iraqis who choose to vote,” Naqib said.

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