Iraq Reports Arrest of Al-Qaida Chief

BAGHDAD -- Iraqi and coalition forces have arrested the second most senior figure in al-Qaida in Iraq, Iraq's national security adviser announced Sunday, saying the group was now suffering a "serious leadership crisis."

Hamed Jumaa Farid al-Saeedi, known as Abu Humam or Abu Rana, was captured north of Baghdad a few days ago "along with another group of his aides and followers," Mouwaffak al-Rubaie said.

He was the second most important al-Qaida in Iraq leader after Abu Ayyub al-Masri, who took over the group after Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad on June 7, al-Rubaie said.

"We believe that al-Qaida in Iraq suffers from a serious leadership crisis. Our troops have dealt fatal and painful blows to this organization," the security adviser said.

Al-Saeedi was "directly responsible" for the person who carried out the February bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra, 95 kilometers north of Baghdad, al-Rubaie added. The bombing inflamed tensions between Shiite and Sunni Muslims and triggered reprisal attacks that have killed hundreds of Iraqis and continue to this day.

"Al-Saeedi carried out al-Qaida's policies in Iraq and the orders of the slain al-Zarqawi to incite sectarian violence in the country, through attempting to start a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis -- but their wishes did not materialize," al-Rubaie said.

A senior coalition official said coalition forces were involved in al-Saeedi's arrest, although the official would not characterize what role they played.

Al-Saeedi "claims to be responsible for more attacks than he can remember" and has been involved in the insurgency almost from its beginning, three years ago, the official said.

Al-Rubaie said al-Saeedi was arrested "along with another group of his aides and followers," and that after his arrest he gave information that led to the capture or death of 11 other top al-Qaida in Iraq figures and nine lower-level members.

The security adviser said those arrested included non-Iraqi Arabs, but he would not give any further information for security reasons.

He said that according to Iraqi authorities' information, al-Qaida in Iraq was being financed from both within the country and from abroad, "but the major finance is coming from outside Iraq."

After his arrest, al-Saeedi also said al-Qaida in Iraq was cooperating with supporters of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein "in the fields of exchanging information and logistical support," the security adviser said.

After al-Zarqawi was killed, authorities obtained information about al-Saeedi indicating he had been operating in Salahuddin province, al-Rubaie said. He later moved south to northern Baghdad and had been operating outside Baqouba, the same area where al-Zarqawi was killed.

Al-Saeedi had been hiding in a residential building, the security adviser said. "He wanted to use children and women as human shields during the arrest, which is why the operation was based on a very precise military plan to preserve the lives of women and children in the building," al-Rubaie said, adding that there had been no casualties during the arrest.

"Hamed al-Saeedi supervised terrorist groups that kidnapped people for ransom and killed policemen after they received their salaries in order to finance terrorist operations," the security adviser said. "He used to order terrorist operations using mortars and roadside bombs, which led to the killing of several troops and innocent civilians."

He said al-Saeedi also supervised the creation of death squads and ordered assassinations, bombings, kidnappings and attacks on Iraqi police and army checkpoints.