The US command has announced the arrest of an Al-Qaeda leader it said served as the link between the organisation's command in Iraq and Osama bin Laden's inner circle, enabling it to wield considerable influence over the Iraqi group.
The announcement was made on Wednesday as the White House steps up efforts to link the war in Iraq to the Sept 11, 2001 terror attacks, with a growing number of Americans opposing the Iraq conflict. Some independent analysts question the extent of Al-Qaeda's role in Iraq.
Khaled Abdul-Fattah Dawoud Mahmoud al-Mashhadani was the highest-ranking Iraqi in the al-Qaida in Iraq leadership when he was captured July 4 in Mosul, US military spokesman Brig Gen Kevin Bergner said.
Bergner told reporters that al-Mashhadani carried messages from bin Laden, and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahri, to the Egyptian-born head of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri.
"There is a clear connection between al-Qaida in Iraq and al-Qaida senior leadership outside Iraq," Bergner said.
He said al-Mashhadani had told interrogators that al-Qaida's global leadership provides "directions, they continue to provide a focus for operations" and "they continue to flow foreign fighters into Iraq, foreign terrorists."
The relationship between bin Laden and the al-Qaida in Iraq leadership has long been the subject of debate. Some private analysts believe the foreign-based leadership plays a minor role in day-to-day operations.