US denies arrest of al-Masri, al-Qaeda in Iraq leader

Friday, May 9, 2008

A day after it was reported by Iraqi military spokesperson, Mohammed al-Askari, that Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri was arrested, the United States says he was not.

Major Peggy Kageleiry, a spokesperson for the US forces in Iraq, said "neither coalition forces nor Iraqi security forces detained or killed Abu Ayyub al-Masri. This guy had a similar name."

When pressed for an answer by Associated Press, al-Askari said, "We called the commander of Ninevah operations 10 times and every time he insisted it was Abu Hamza al-Muhajir because when they caught him, they asked him whether his name was Abu Hamza al-Muhajir and he said yes."

Abu Hamza al-Muhajir is a known alias of Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

Askari added that the commander repeatedly "insisted that it was him, how can we deny him then," in explaining why he told the press yesterday that Al-Masri had been captured.