AMMAN, Jordan – The nephew of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search), Al Qaeda's point man in Iraq, was detained near the Jordanian-Iraqi border, a distant relative and a clergyman close to the family said Thursday.
The clergyman and the relative, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said security officials informed the family that Mohammed al-Harahsheh (search) was detained last month.
Government officials were not immediately available for comment. Several calls to al-Zarqawi's family home in Zarqa, an industrial city 17 miles northeast of the Jordanian capital, Amman (search), went unanswered.
The clergyman and the relative told The Associated Press that the family wanted to keep the news quiet so as not to jeopardize what they said was a promise from Jordanian authorities that al-Harahsheh would soon be released.
The relative said al-Harahsheh was being questioned on suspicion of attempting to enter Iraq to join his militant uncle.
Abu Dhabi Television carried a similar report Thursday. The satellite station, however, said the nephew had been charged with attempting to join his uncle's militant group in Iraq.
Jordan has been trying to prevent Jordanians and other Arabs from slipping across its desert border to fight U.S. troops in Iraq. Measures adopted in the wake of the war included tightening security along the eastern border, closely scrutinizing travel documents and questioning those considered suspicious.
Officials have declined to provide an estimate on how many would-be fighters had been stopped or give an assessment of the effectiveness of their counter-infiltration measures.
Al-Zarqawi, whose real name is Ahmad Fadhil Nazzal al-Khalayleh, is wanted by both Jordanian and American authorities. The United States has offered $25 million for information leading to his capture or death — the same amount offered for Usama bin Laden.
Al-Zarqawi's group, which recently announced its allegiance to Al Qaeda, is believed to be behind a series of attacks on police and security forces in Iraq that killed scores of people. The group also has claimed responsibility for the beheading of several foreign hostages, including three Americans and a Briton.
A Jordanian military court has sentenced al-Zarqawi to death in absentia for his role in a terror conspiracy targeting Americans and Israelis in Jordan, including U.S. aid official Laurence Foley, who was assassinated in Amman in 2002.
He also is sought in what Jordanian officials allege was a foiled plot to launch a chemical bomb attack on the Amman headquarters of the General Intelligence Department. Suspects in that case were to go on trial in Jordan's military court soon.
Al-Zarqawi took his name from Zarqa, the city in which he used to live. He hails from a prominent Bedouin tribe, the Bani Hassan.
In July, Jordanian secret service agents arrested al-Zarqawi's brother-in-law. Security officials said then that Saleh al-Hami was held for a few days and later released after questioning not related to any suspicion of terrorism.