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Terrorist leader released by mistake

London Guardian | December 17 2005

Comment: Another top Al Qaeda figure is let go "by mistake"

FLASHBACK: Three senior Al-Qaeda leaders escaped Bagram prison: Pentagon official

FLASHBACK: Escape of top al-Qaeda suspect from U.S. prison angers Indonesia

FLASHBACK: U.S. Told Saudis to Let Al-Qaida Gunmen Escape Says Official

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, America's most wanted man in Iraq, was arrested last year but released because his captors did not know who he was, an Iraqi government minister has claimed.

The deputy interior minister, Hussein Kamal, told CNN the Jordanian-born terrorist was briefly held by Iraqi security forces, but he did not provide further details.

A US official quoted by CNN said US intelligence believed the report was "plausible". The US has put a $25m (£14.5m) bounty on Zarqawi, the same as for Osama bin Laden.

The leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Zarqawi has claimed attacks on civilian targets in Iraq and the beheading of the British hostage Ken Bigley. His group also claimed responsibility for the suicide bombings last month at three hotels in the Jordanian capital of Amman that killed 63 people, including wedding guests.

Last month, there were reports he might have died during fighting in northern Iraq when senior militants believed to be inside a house in Mosul blew themselves up rather than surrender to US and Iraqi forces.

Al-Qaida in Iraq and Iraqi officials both denied the reports.

There have been several reports of missed opportunities to capture Zarqawi, including an April 28 raid by US forces acting on a tipoff from local informants that he was hiding in a hospital in Ramadi.

Jordan sentenced Zarqawi to death in absentia for planning a terrorist plot that led to the 2002 killing of US aid worker Laurence Foley.


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