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'Zarqawi hiding near Baghdad'

The Al-Qaeda leader's capture, who has a $25 million bounty on his head, will be a major achievement for Iraq.

india Updated: Jan 23, 2006 10:18 IST

Iraqi military officials have said on Sunday that there are intelligence reports statingthat Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the militant leader behind some of the bloodiest attacks in Iraq, is in Diyala province near Baghdad.

It is not the first time that Iraqi officials have said that they have closed in on the elusive Zarqawi, leader of the Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He is the most wanted man in Iraq, with a $25 million bounty on his head.

At one point of time, he was rumoured to be suffering from serious wounds in a hospital in the western town of Ramadi.

On another occasion, Iraqi officials said the police had captured Zarqawi,but thenreleased him after three or four hours because they had failed to recognise him.

Army posts have been notified of Zarqawi's presence in Diyala, northeast of Baghdad, where there has been a surge in violence in the past few months. His exact location in the province is not known, an official said.

Catching Zarqawi would be a major achievement Iraq, which has watched the Sunni Jordanian militant order suicide bombings of Shiites in a bid to plunge Iraq into a sectarian civil war.

Aside from suicide bombings, Zarqawi's followers are mounting a propaganda campaign on the Internet which shows his masked militant followers beheading westerners and Arabs.

Zarqawi, who has spent time in a Jordanian jail, is believed to have carried out some of the beheadings himself as part of a campaign designed to topple the Iraqi government and force the United States to withdraw its troops.

First Published: Jan 22, 2006 19:22 IST