Iraqi and US soldiers have captured Izzat al-Douri, vice president of Iraq under Saddam Hussein's rule, in a raid on an Al Qaeda hideout, an Iraqi daily reported on Sunday.
Al-Douri, one of the most influential figures in the former regime, is one of Iraq's most wanted insurgent leaders, with a $10 million bounty on his head. Earlier reports that he had been killed or captured have proved to have been false.
Saturday's joint operation, supported by the US Air Force, aimed to deliver "severe blows" to Al Qaeda in the hills of Hamrin, some 75 km northeast of the provincial capital of Diyala, the independent daily al-Sabah al-Jadid reported.
The newspaper al-Sabah al-Jadid said al-Douri was found hiding in a cave near the "headquarters" of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.
"The operation succeeded in targeting the central command headquarters for Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, which was responsible for violent attacks in four Iraqi provinces: Diyala, Kirkuk, Salah al-Din, and Baghdad," the paper quoted a security source as saying.
Al-Sabah al-Jadid's source described the terrain in Hamrin as "difficult, and impossible to cover using army vehicles".
The raid also uncovered hideouts of the Naqshbandi militant movement near the Al Qaeda headquarters, the paper reported. The source said this "proved" the link between the two militant groups.
Soldiers confiscated "important" documents and maps in the headquarters indicating the locations of other Al Qaeda hiding places and detailing sources of support from neighbouring Arab countries for the movement of suicide bombers and weapons into Iraq.
The paper's source said the documents showed that Al Qaeda's plans to recruit Iraqi suicide bombers to target "sensitive areas" in neighbouring countries had been successful.