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Determined Manhunt Leads to Major Terrorist Catch

American Forces Press Service

BAGHDAD, April 6, 2006 – U.S. officials announced today that Iraqi forces captured a terrorist leader in Iraq early last month.

Iraqi forces captured and arrested Iraqi terrorist leader Muhammed Hila Hammad Ubaydi, also known as Abu Ayman, in the Mahmudiyah neighborhood of southern Baghdad March 7. Investigators held notice of this capture until now to wait for the results of DNA testing, which confirmed the identity of the man in custody.

"Ayman's capture was the result of a determined manhunt conducted by Iraqi intelligence professionals and several intelligence agencies within the coalition," U.S. officials said in a release.

Until his capture, Abu Ayman, the aide to Saddam Hussein's chief of staff of intelligence during the former regime, was the leader of the Secret Islamic Army in northern Babil province. Abu Ayman has strong ties to fugitive Jordanian terror leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, still considered the head of al Qaeda in Iraq, U.S. officials said.

Abu Ayman is the prime suspect in the kidnapping of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena and in assassination attempts on Iraqi government and security force officials. He also is the prime suspect in the kidnapping and killing of several hostages in Iraq and in committing some of the most lethal improvised-explosive-device attacks on coalition and Iraqi forces and on Iraqi citizens.

"Iraqi and coalition forces consider Abu Ayman's capture significant in their pursuit to lay to rest the terror cells that have caused death and destruction in Iraq," according to the release.

Officials believe Abu Ayman's capture will not only disrupt some of these attacks, and that his capture will undoubtedly save lives, but that he will also provide valuable information leading to the capture of other terrorists he has worked with in the past.

Iraqi and coalition forces captured Abu Ayman's lieutenant, Syrian-born terrorist Abu Qatada, Dec. 27 during a raid on his house, where he was found hiding in a nearby canal. He had been wanted for multiple IED attacks, the assassinations of two Iraqi government council members, and the murders of several truck drivers in order to use their trucks in attacks. In the months following his capture, Abu Qatada has provided valuable information on the Abu Ayman terror network, officials said.

The Iraqi Central Investigating Court in Baghdad issued an arrest warrant for Abu Ayman on Oct. 17, citing his violation of Iraqi Penal Code 194 -- committing terrorist acts.

(From a Multinational Force Iraq news release.)

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