msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 5/9/2005 9:22:52 AM ET 2005-05-09T13:22:52

The U.S. military and the Iraqi government are suggesting that two recent arrests could result in huge payoffs in the war against insurgents by closing the net around Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, and helping in this weekend's operation in western Iraq.

Both men arrested are said to be close aides to al-Zarqawi, whose group is thought to be responsible for most of the suicide bombings and kidnappings in Iraq.

Amar Adnan Muhammad Hamzah al-Zubaydi was arrested in a Baghdad raid on May 5, the military said, while Ghassan Amin was captured in western Iraq in late April along with two associates.

The captures, the U.S. military said in a statement Sunday, "have provided Iraqi and coalition forces with significant insight into the Zarqawi network."

"The most notable details gained from these detained terrorists specifically concern the operations, logistics and locations of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi network members, foreign fighters and suicide bombers within Baghdad and the western corridor of Iraq," the military added.

Alleged assassination plot
In the case of al-Zubaydi, the military said that he:

  • "Confirmed that letters, notes and sketches (found with him) contained plans and intelligence for an operation to assassinate a prominent Iraqi Government official."
  • "Provided explosive devices, assisted in the preparation of vehicles, selected targets, coordinated for suicide bombers, facilitated foreign fighters into Iraq and orchestrated the execution of several bombing operations in recent weeks to include the Abu Ghraib attack April 2 and the car bomb attacks on April 29" in which dozens of Iraqis were killed around Baghdad.
  • "Confessed to stealing 300 to 400 rockets and more than 720 cases of plastic explosives from a weapons facility in Yussifiyah in early 2003." He disclosed where the remaining cache was stored, and coalition forces destroyed the weapons.
  • "Admitted to providing explosive devices to Umar al-Kurdi," who is suspected of preparing over 75 percent of all car bombs in Baghdad prior to his capture last January.

Al-Zarqawi meeting
Amin's capture was reported Saturday by the Iraqi government, which identified him as leading insurgents in the western town of Rawa.

He was said to have facilitated meetings for senior officials in al-Zarqawi’s group.

Amin reportedly confessed to meeting al-Zarqawi once in January and facilitating his stay with an associate for five days.

The Iraqi government accused Amin of kidnappings and that security forces found weapons and cars being prepared for bombings when they detained him.

The U.S. military earlier said it almost caught al-Zarqawi in February after pursuing a car in which he was traveling in western Iraq. He fled the vehicle and escaped but his laptop was seized, reportedly providing new leads into cracking down on his network.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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