Osama bin Laden’s terror network is seeking a foothold in Iraq as evidenced by the recent arrest of a top al-Qaida operative trying to enter northern Iraq, the commander of coalition forces said Thursday.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez cited the capture of Hassan Ghul by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces as evidence of al-Qaida’s interest in establishing operations in this country.
Officials in Washington reported Ghul’s arrest Saturday, describing him as a senior recruiter and facilitator for al-Qaida who reported directly to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, one of the architects of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks who was captured in March near Islamabad, Pakistan.
“The capture of Ghul is pretty strong proof that al-Qaida is trying to gain a foothold here to continue their murderous campaigns,” Sanchez said. “Ghul’s capture is great news for both the Iraqis, the coalition and the international community’s war against terrorism.”
Sanchez refused to say whether U.S. intelligence has identified active al-Qaida cells in Baghdad or elsewhere in Iraq, saying it would be “inappropriate” for him to comment.