Iraqi insurgent leader captured: state television

BAGHDAD Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:08pm BST

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, the purported leader of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda-linked insurgent group, has been captured, Iraqi state television said Thursday.

The insurgent group is one of a handful of Sunni Arab extremist groups blamed for suicide bombings and other attacks in the northern city of Mosul and other parts of Iraq.

Violence has dropped sharply since the height of sectarian killings in 2006-07, but attacks continue. The report came on the same day that two separate suicide bombings killed 68 people in Baghdad and in a town northeast of the Iraqi capital.

Al-Iraqiya television said Baghdadi was believed to have been captured in eastern Baghdad. Security experts have previously speculated that Baghdadi was a character invented by some extremist groups rather than a real person.

U.S. Major-General David Perkins, spokesman for U.S. forces in Iraq, told Reuters Television in Washington the U.S. military had not yet been able to confirm the capture of the insurgent leader, whose detention has been reported before.

Iraqi forces are taking greater responsibility for security in Iraq as U.S. troops, who now number close to 140,000 in Iraq, prepare to withdraw fully by the end of 2011.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)