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Zarqawi 'Senior Leader' Captured, Soldiers Wounded

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 23, 2004 – Multinational forces captured a "senior leader" from terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi's inner circle today in a raid on a safe house in Fallujah, Iraq.

Intelligence sources said the individual had recently moved up "to take a critical position" in Zarqawi's network as a result of multinational forces capturing or killing other associates. Before that, he had held a "relatively minor role." Forces also detained five other terrorists in the raid.

In other action, an improvised explosive device wounded six U.S. soldiers assigned to Task Force Baghdad during their patrol today. They were taken to a nearby military medical facility; the incident remains under investigation.

News sources also reported that a bomb attack occurred outside a multinational force base near Ramadi today, but there was no official confirmation of any injuries or deaths.

Three Iraqi civilians died after anti-Iraqi forces attacked U.S. Marines Oct. 21 with an IED and small-arms fire near Iskandariyah, a south-central Iraq city. The attack occurred while elements of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit conducted a routine vehicle patrol.

Two of the Iraqis were hit by shrapnel from the hidden roadside bomb that exploded as the Marines passed. The third Iraqi was hit by insurgents' roadside fire after the blast.

Multinational forces have reported eliminating several Zarqawi meeting sites, safe houses and training locations in recent weeks. Forces have destroyed numerous weapons, including explosives stockpiles, and car bombs, and have captured numerous Zarqawi operatives.

Officials said the terrorist leader is behind "many of the most heinous suicide bombings, mortar attacks, kidnappings and shootings," claiming hundreds of innocent Iraqis. Officials also noted that a Zarqawi-led group recently "pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and said it was in contact with al Qaeda over operations in Iraq."

They also pointed out that Zarqawi's network claimed it had beheaded 11 members of the Iraqi police and National Guard this past week. In addition, it said it was responsible for a multiple car bomb attack at a ceremony opening a Baghdad sewage plant in September. Iraqi government sources said that attack killed more than 34 children and injured more than 130 people, including 70 children.

Coalition forces credit the success of the "eroding Zarqawi's support base" to citizen courage and bravery to come forward with information on the location of his associates. Multinational forces pledge to keep striking at "positively identified terrorist cells and anti-Iraq force gatherings wherever they occur," according to officials.

(Compiled from Multinational Force Iraq news releases.)

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Related Sites:
Multinational Force Iraq
24th Marine Expeditionary Unit

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