Iraqi Customs Agent Arrested in Jordan Confesses to Al Qaeda Killings

An Iraqi government contractor confessed on Jordanian television to kidnapping and killing on the orders of Al Qaeda in Iraq before he was lured to Jordan and arrested.

The man, identified as Ziad Khalaf Raja al-Karbouly, said that he had kidnapped two Moroccan embassy employees and an Iraqi finance ministry official under direct orders from the terror group and its leader, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

The man, also known as Abu Huthayfa, also said that he had killed a Jordanian truck driver.

CountryWatch: Jordan

"Al-Karbouly used his position as a customs clearing agent" on Iraq's border with Jordan to "facilitate his crimes," including kidnapping Jordanians and other Arabs crossing the desert, the Jordanian government said on the half-hour, prime time special Tuesday evening.

Customs clearing agents are private contractors who work at border crossings for the Iraqi government.

The suspect was lured out of Iraq and into Jordan, where he was arrested, the kingdom said.

It said al-Karbouly was Al Qaeda in Iraq's point man for receiving goods stolen by Iraqi insurgents, to supply terrorist operations and for sale inside and outside Iraq.

In the television special, the suspect described working with others to capture two Moroccan embassy employees and two Kurds on the border, Iraq's economic lifeline. He said he coordinated their abduction with Yasser Mahmoud Harbi, whom he described as a top military aide to al-Zarqawi.

Al-Karbouly said al-Zarqawi knew details of the abductions and "sentenced both Moroccans to death." The Kurds were released, he said.

The suspected militant said he also abducted an unidentified assistant to Iraq's former finance minister, but that the man was released because he was a Sunni Muslim.

The slender terror suspect appeared to be in his mid-30s and wore a blue shirt and a beard. He appeared composed as he described his operations and contacts with al-Zarqawi's group, confessing to kidnapping and killing Jordanian truck driver Khalid al-Dessouki last September.

"I was instructed by Al Qaeda leaders to get any Jordanian because Jordanians deal with the Americans and bring goods to them (in Iraq)," he said in a strong Iraqi accent.

He said that when the group's military liaison, identified as Yunis al-Ramlawi, or Abu Azzam, was late in sending a killing squad for al-Dessouki, "I killed him myself."

When the driver's family called on the dead man's mobile phone, al-Karbouly answered and identified himself as "Al Qaeda and a member of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's group."

"I told them that I killed him," he said on the program, with no visible emotion. But al-Karbouly said he was "touched" when he later scrolled through pictures of al-Dessouki's five young children on the mobile phone.

Al-Karbouly is a native of the Iraqi town of al-Qaim, on the Syrian border where U.S. forces have carried out intensive military operations, the program said.

The announcement did not say when or how the man was arrested. It provided little detail on the operation that led to his detention.

TV footage showed masked anti-terrorism officials pulling the blindfolded suspect out of a Jordanian military helicopter.

Jordanian security officials had previously said that the man was captured in Iraq.

Jordan's intelligence department coordinates closely and shares intelligence data with the United States.

The Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi has claimed responsibility for several terror attacks against his native country, criticized by the group from its moderate stance on Islam, its longtime alliance with the U.S. and the peace treaty it signed with Israel in 1994.

The group has claimed responsibility for scores of kidnappings, beheadings and suicide bombings in Iraq.