ShareThis Page
News

U.S. captures senior Ansar al-Islam terror leader

| Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003

WASHINGTON -- American forces in Iraq have captured one of the most senior members of Ansar al-Islam, an extremist group suspected of having ties to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.

The arrest of Aso Hawleri, also known as Asad Muhammad Hasan, late last week in the northern city of Mosul has not been announced. Larry Di Rita, chief spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, told reporters, "I'm not in a position to confirm" Hawleri's capture.

Hawleri was taken by soldiers of the 101st Airborne Division, said a defense official, who discussed the matter on condition of anonymity.

The capture netted a number of other people besides Hawleri, the official said, adding that there apparently was not a gunfight.

No other details were immediately available.

The officials said Hawleri is thought to be the third-ranking official in Ansar al-Islam, most of whose fighters were believed to have fled their stronghold in northern Iraq before U.S. forces invaded in March. U.S. and Kurdish forces destroyed the group's main base in the early weeks of the war.

Ansar had taken control of a slice of the Kurdish-controlled area near the Iranian border, enforcing a version of Islam only slightly less stringent than the Taliban in Afghanistan in mountain strongholds outside areas of Iraq controlled by government forces.

In an analytical report in December 2001, Iraq expert Michael Rubin of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy wrote that Hawleri had led the Second Soran Unit, the largest single military unit within an Iraqi opposition group called the Islamic Unity Movement. In 2001 the Second Soran Unit merged with the Tawhid Islamic Front to form Jund al-Islam, later called Ansar al-Islam, according to Rubin, who says the group received funds from bin Laden and trained in Afghanistan.

Tactics of Ansar have included suicide bombings, car bombs, assassinations and raids on militiamen and politicians of the secular Kurdish government. The group has killed scores of people over the last two years.

U.S. officials say Ansar sent about a dozen people through al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan in 1999 and 2000 and experimented with biotoxin ricin in 2002.

In late August, Army Gen. John Abizaid, overall commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, told reporters that elements of Ansar al-Islam had migrated south into the Baghdad area and presented an increased terrorist threat.

It remains unclear whether Ansar has played a role in any of the recent terror-style bombings in Iraq, including the Aug. 19 bombing of the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad that killed 22 people.

Ansar's spiritual leader, Mullah Krekar, was taken into custody in the Netherlands in September 2002 and later was deported to Norway. He was released from a Norwegian jail last April after a court found insufficient grounds to hold him on terrorism charges. Police dropped the charges in July, but are investigating him on allegations he financed terrorist activities.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.

click me