BAGHDAD, Iraq — Iraqi security forces have arrested the "most lethal" top lieutenant of Al Qaeda's leader in Iraq — a man allegedly behind most of the car bombings in Baghdad since the U.S.-led invasion, including the 2003 assault on U.N. headquarters that killed 22 people, the prime minister's office said Monday.
Sami Mohammed Ali Said al-Jaaf, also known as Abu Omar al-Kurdi, was arrested during a Jan. 15 raid in Baghdad, a government statement said Monday. Two other militants linked to Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terror group also were arrested, authorities announced Monday.
Al-Jaaf was "the most lethal of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's lieutenants," the statement said.
Al-Zarqawi heads Al Qaeda in Iraq, the terror network's local affiliate. The group is behind many of the car bombings, beheadings, assassinations and other attacks driving the insurgency in Iraq.
The suspect was linked to the August 2003 bombing of U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, which killed the top U.N. envoy in Iraq, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 others. The U.N. attack was "planned and directed by two others affiliated with Abu Omar," the statement said.
Al-Jaaf was responsible for 32 car bombing attacks that killed hundreds of Iraqis, the statement said. Al-Jaaf "confessed to building approximately 75 percent of the car bombs used in attacks in Baghdad since March 2003," said Thaer al-Naqib, spokesman for interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.
"Abu Omar al-Kurdi claims responsibility for some of the most ruthless attacks on Iraqi police forces and police stations," al-Naqib said.
The suspect built the car bomb used to attack a shrine in the Shiite holy city of Najaf that killed more than 85 people, including Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, in August 2003.
He also assembled the car bomb used to assassinate Izzadine Saleem, president of the now-defunct Iraqi Governing Council in May, the statement said.
Authorities also announced Monday that Iraqi security forces had arrested a man described as the chief of al-Zarqawi's propaganda operations.
And in the northern city of Mosul, Iraqi forces seized one of al-Zarqawi's weapons suppliers.