Iraqi police commandos captured the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq in a raid in the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi officials said Thursday, in what could mark a significant blow to the Sunni insurgency in its last urban stronghold. Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed al-Askari said the arrest of Abu Ayyub al-Masri — also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir — was reported by the Iraqi commander in Mosul, where insurgents have sought to establish a foothold after being widely uprooted from Baghdad and surrounding areas last year.
The U.S. military in Baghdad said it was "checking with Iraqi authorities to confirm the accuracy of this information." Interior Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Abdul-Karim Khalaf said the arrest occurred "at midnight and during the primary investigations he admitted that he is Abu Hamza Al-Muhajir."
Khalaf told the Iraqi state television that al-Masri was arrested during a police raid, but gave no other details.
"Now a broader investigation of him is being conducted," he said.