Iraqi forces capture journalist's kidnapper

Iraqi forces have captured the prime suspect in last year’s kidnapping of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, the US military said today.

Iraqi forces have captured the prime suspect in last year’s kidnapping of Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, the US military said today.

Mohammed Hila Hammad Obeidi, also known as Abu Ayman, was arrested in southern Baghdad on March 7, but the announcement was delayed pending DNA tests to verify his identity, the US command said in a statement.

Abu Ayman is believed to have led the Secret Islamic Army in Babil province south of Baghdad and is said to have close ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the head of al-Qaida in Iraq. He was an aide to the chief of staff of intelligence during Saddam Hussein’s regime, the US statement said.

The statement said Abu Ayman was behind the February 2005 abduction of Sgrena, who worked for a leftist newspaper in Italy. The kidnappers gave Italy 72 hours to withdraw troops from Iraq or she would be killed. However, she was freed a month later.

The US statement also said Abu Ayman was responsible for assassination attempts against Iraqi officials and for other kidnappings.

Abu Ayman’s alleged lieutenant, Syrian-born Abu Qatada, was captured by troops on December 27 and has “provided valuable information on the Abu Ayman terror network”, the statement said.

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