Iraqi security forces detained an aide to the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq in a raid early Thursday at a gas station south of Baghdad, state-run television and a security official said.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said the aide to Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was one of two men arrested in the dawn raid.

The two suspects ran a gas station in Mahmoudiya, about 20 miles south of Baghdad, on behalf of Al Qaeda in Iraq, the official said, adding the returns from selling gas and other oil products on the black market were being used to finance the operations of local Al Qaeda in Iraq cells.

The official, who was involved in the raid, did not identify the two men, but added that the al-Masri aide had confessed to meeting the terror network leader the previous day in the Mahmoudiya area, but that he could not tell investigators of his current whereabouts because he was constantly on the move.

Mahmoudiya is a stronghold of the Sunni-led insurgency. While the town is dominated by Shiites, the farmlands around it are thought to harbor cells of Al Qaeda in Iraq blamed for suicide bombings in the area and attacks against Iraqi and U.S. security forces.

There have been frequent reports by the U.S. military and Iraqi authorities on the arrest of aides of al-Masri since he took over the terror network following the June 7 killing of his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

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