U.S. authorities on Thursday released a prominent Sunni Muslim (search) cleric arrested last year in the tense city of Fallujah.

Sheik Jamal Shaker Nazzal (search), the imam of Fallujah's Grand Mosque, said his release was part of a deal between the city's residents and U.S. occupation authorities seeking to defuse the ongoing crisis around the besieged city.

"We suffered a lot in prison but with God's help and that of the people of Fallujah (search) I gained my freedom," he said. "Thanks be to God for the victory of Fallujah."

There was no comment from U.S. authorities on the release.

Nazzal, an outspoken opponent of the U.S. occupation, was taken into custody in October. Soon after his arrest, a previously unknown group called the "Hamza Platoon" threatened to attack U.S. troops unless the cleric was freed.