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US says Iraqi militant behind Sgrena kidnap caught

By Staff
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BAGHDAD, Apr 6 (Reuters) Iraqi forces have captured the prime suspect in the kidnapping of Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena, the US military today said.

The statement said Muhammad al-Ubaydi, a former senior intelligence official under Saddam Hussein with close ties to the al-Qaeda leader in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, was arrested on March 7.

Sgrena was released last year but an Italian intelligence officer escorting her to freedom was shot and killed by US forces.

The military said Ubaydi was the former aide to the Chief of Staff of intelligence under Saddam and now heads a group it identified as the Secret Islamic Army in northern Babel province.

The US military has often said it has captured key Zarqawi aides and less senior associates of the Jordanian militant who has claimed responsibility for some of the most spectacular suicide bombings in Iraq.

Iraqi Interior Minister Bayan Jabor has said Zarqawi is too weak to do any more serious damage in Iraq but that assessment has been challenged by western intelligence officials.

REUTERS OM KP1601

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