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Iraqi security forces detained an aide to the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq in a raid early Thursday at a gas station south of Baghdad, state-run television and a security official said.
The official said the aide to Abu Hamza al-Muhajir, also known as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was one of two men arrested in the dawn raid.
The two suspects ran a gas station in Mahmoudiya, about 30 kilometers south of Baghdad, on behalf of al-Qaida in Iraq, the official said, adding the returns from selling gas and other oil products on the black market were being used to finance the operations of local al-Qaida in Iraq cells.
The official, who was involved in the raid, did not name the two men, but added that the al-Masri aide had confessed to meeting the terror network leader the previous day in the Mahmoudiya area but that he could not tell investigators of his current whereabouts because he was constantly on the move.
Mahmoudiya is a stronghold of the Sunni-led insurgency. While the town is dominated by Shi'ites, the farmlands around it are thought to harbor cells of al-Qaida in Iraq blamed for suicide bombings in the area and attacks against Iraqi and US security forces.
There have been frequent reports by the US military and Iraqi authorities on the arrest of aides of al-Masri since he took over the terror network following the June 7 killing of his predecessor, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. It's impossible to independently verify this report or to gauge the significance of those detained in the network's hierarchy.