BAGHDAD – A senior Al Qaeda (search) leader was killed during a series of Coalition raids in western Iraq on Oct. 15, the U.S. military says.
According to a press statement released by the Coalition Press Information Center in Baghdad, Sa'ad Ali Firas Muntar al Dulaymi (aka Abu Abdullah) was killed near the town of Ramadi during raids on suspected terror hideouts.
At least 11 other terrorists were killed in the operation, according to the military.
Military intelligence sources indicate that Sa'ad Ali Firas (search) was highly regarded by many senior Al Qaeda members, including Abu Musab Zarqawi (search).
Sa'ad Ali Firas was believed to have facilitated high-level meetings in Ramadi and Fallujah, where senior-level terrorists gathered to discuss strategy and ongoing operations. Zarqawi was said to have attended some of these meetings.
Meanwhile, Iraq’s interior minister says the capture of a nephew of Saddam Hussein (search), believed to be the top financier for Iraq's insurgents, could help track down the source of the funds coming from abroad.
Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said the suspect has told interrogators he was receiving money from someone "from the family of Saddam" living in "other Arab countries" to deliver to insurgents in Iraq.
Iraqi security forces arrested Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim (search), a son of Saddam's half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti, during a pro-Saddam demonstration in the city of Tikrit on Wednesday, the day the former dictator's trial began in Baghdad, Jabr said.
"He is the link between outside and inside. He brings the money and he distributes the money to the insurgency to do the operations," Jabr said at a news conference.
He said Ibrahim's arrest followed long undercover work by Iraqi security forces. "We have been trying to capture him for many months," he said.
"We will get more information from" Ibrahim to help determine who is the source of the funding for insurgents, Jabr said. He did not say what other Arab nations the money was coming from.
Iraqi security officials said Ibrahim had been in Syria, but the Damascus government forced him to leave and return home, and he was arrested a few days after arriving back in Iraq. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to deal with the media. They did not say exactly when the arrest was made.
Syria handed over Ibrahim's father, No. 36 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqis, along with 29 other former Baath Party (search) officials in February, after months of denying Iraqi accusations that Damascus was harboring fugitives. That was seen as a goodwill gesture by Syria.
The report comes as Syria has become increasingly cornered in its ties with the United States and other nations. Washington insists Damascus could do more to block the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.
Jabr, the Iraqi interior minister, said he didn't know whether Syrian authorities had forced him to return.
In another development, Amr Moussa, the secretary-general of the Arab League (search), arrived Thursday on his first visit to Iraq since the 2003 ouster of Saddam, hoping to organize a national reconciliation conference.
Moussa came to Baghdad from Cairo with a delegation of 34 Arab League members guarded under tight security. Another Arab League delegation was attacked by gunmen last week while in the Iraqi capital to prepare Moussa's trip. No one from the delegation was hurt, but two policemen guarding the group were killed.
Moussa is disliked by many Iraqi Shiite Muslims and Kurds for his perceived refusal to act against Saddam's persecution of both groups while the dictator was in power. Still, the Egyptian diplomat was expected to meet Iraq's most powerful Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, as well as government and tribal leaders during his three-day visit.
Insurgents also launched new attacks Thursday, one day after Saddam and seven senior members of his regime went on trial for a 1982 massacre of about 150 Shiites in the town of Dujail, north of Baghdad. Saddam challenged the legitimacy of the court and pleaded innocent to all charges. The judge adjourned the trial until Nov. 28.
The U.S. military said four soldiers were killed and five wounded in two roadside bomb attacks Wednesday near the northern cities of Balad and Tikrit, Saddam's hometown. Another American soldier died from a non-hostile gunshot wound Tuesday at a military base near Mosul, 225 miles northwest of Baghdad, the military said.
The fatalities rose to at least 1,987 the number of members of the U.S. military who have died since the beginning of the war in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
Two suicide car bombs went off in two towns of Diyala province, northeast of Baghdad, killing four people. One hit a provincial government building in Baqouba, killing three civilians and wounding 14, police said. The second went off at a police checkpoint in the town of Khalis, killing a policeman and wounding nine others.
In Baghdad, a rocket hit a public school for students aged 12 to 15 in the western al-Mansour neighborhood, killing a student and a nearby shopkeeper and wounding five students, said police Capt. Qassim Hussein.
Gunmen killed five policemen in a drive-by shooting in Karmah, 25 miles west of Baghdad, police said. Another car of insurgents sprayed civilians with gunfire outside a food shop in the southern Dora area of Baghdad, killing two, said police Capt. Firas Gaiti. The militants then stopped, rushed into the shop and gunned down a third Iraqi, Gaiti said.
Elsewhere, insurgents using explosives set fire to the main oil pipeline in northern Iraq on Thursday, officials said. The pipeline links an oil field in the northern city of Kirkuk to Iraq's largest oil refinery in Beiji, 155 miles north of Baghdad.
The explosion occurred at about 5 a.m., setting fire to the pipeline and several oil valves about 34 miles west of Kirkuk, said firefighter Adil Mohammed.
"The damage is 100 percent, and we've haven't been able to control the fire yet," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.