Iraq’s most wanted terrorist, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (search ), has been seriously wounded, according to a doctor who claims to have treated him last week.

The doctor told an Iraqi reporter in the western city of Ramadi that Zarqawi was bleeding heavily when he was brought into hospital on Wednesday. After treating his wounds the doctor tried to persuade him to remain, but the Jordanian-born terrorist’s minders drove him away.

The claim was supported yesterday by a senior commander in the Iraqi resistance who had been to Ramadi to investigate the report. The doctor, who refused to specify the nature of the wounds and asked not to be identified, was detained by the Americans on Friday for questioning, residents said.

Zarqawi, described as Usama Bin Laden’s “emir” in Iraq, is the Americans’ top target. He has been blamed for countless suicide bombings and for the execution of western hostages, including Ken Bigley, the Liverpool engineer. There is a £13m bounty on his head.

Last week US forces launched an offensive near al-Qaim, more than 100 miles northwest of the city, and claimed to have killed scores of insurgents.

According to the doctor, Zarqawi was escorted into Ramadi general hospital by smartly dressed men. “He was bleeding heavily and his escorts were well dressed with a look about them that was different from the casualties and family members we had been receiving from the al-Qaim offensive,” he was quoted as saying.

“I treated his injury and asked that he remain in hospital for further observations and told him that we would have to register him and take down his name and details. But he became very nervous and agitated. He refused and told me he would not be staying.

“The three men with him asked me politely that he be allowed to leave hospital immediately and that I supply them with a prescription and a list of medication that he may need.”

The doctor, who recognized Zarqawi from his photograph on television, followed them to their vehicle to try to convince them that the patient should remain in hospital. At that point, he said, he saw machineguns. They threatened to kill him if he told anyone what he had seen.

They then produced a wad of US dollars to secure his silence. The doctor said that he had refused to take the cash.