U.S. special services have arrested a senior al-Qaida member and personal associate of the group's new leader, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq said Thursday.
The man, who was not identified, was arrested Tuesday and was the leader of assassination, kidnapping and bomb making cells in Baghdad, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell said.
In a separate announcement, Iraqi authorities said that police killed Abu Jaafar al-Liby, a senior member of al-Qaida in Iraq, during an operation in Baghdad three days ago, Interior Ministry director of operations Brigadier Abdul-Karim Khalaf told the Associated Press.
Four other insurgents were killed and two others were arrested during the raid, Khalaf said.
He added that al-Liby was in charge of the Baghdad sector and was either the second or the third man in al-Qaida in Iraq, according to Khalaf.
Two letters were found with al-Liby, he said. One was for bin Laden and the other was for al-Masri, both pledging loyalty and promising more attacks.
It was not know if the killing announced by Iraqis was in any way related to the operations that led to the arrest of the unidentified al-Qaida terrorist described by Caldwell.
According to Caldwell he was a "personal associate" of Abu Ayyoub al-Masri, who took over al-Qaida in Iraq from Jordanian-born terrorist mastermind Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after he was killed in an American airstrike north of Baghdad on June 7.
Caldwell said U.S. and Iraqi forces carried out 25 "focused raids" around the capital on Tuesday. He said there had been 150 focused operations carried out since Aug. 30 resulting in "66 terrorists killed and 830 suspected terrorists detained."
"As part of these operations on Tuesday evening alone there was a series of 25 raids in and around Baghdad targeting al-Qaida in Iraq activities. A key outcome of these raids was the capture of over 70 suspected terrorists, one of which was the personal associate of Abu Ayyoub al-Masri," Caldwell said.
He added that "this associate of al-Masri was the leader of assassination, kidnapping and IED cells in Baghdad. It is know he directly participated in numerous terrorist acts, including kidnappings and executions, terrorist acts and others contributing to sectarian violence throughout the city."
Caldwell said the man arrested by U.S. and Iraqi forces also played a key role in al-Qaida's activities in the Anbar city of Fallujah before it was attacked by U.S. troops in November 2004.
"Her also played a key operational role in terrorist activities prior to and during the operation in Fallujah in Nov. 2004," Caldwell said.