U.S. troops sweeping through Fallujah on Thursday said they believe they have found a command center used by the insurgent group headed by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
In video shot by an embedded CNN cameraman, soldiers walked through an imposing building with concrete columns and with a large sign in Arabic on the wall reading “al-Qaida Organization” and “There is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.”
Inside the building, U.S. soldiers found documents, old computers, notebooks, photographs and copies of the Quran.
Letters from al-Zarqawi reportedly found
The Washington Post said that the soldiers also found letters that translators said were written by al-Zarqawi to his lieutenants, medical supplies from the International Red Cross and the U.S. Agency for International Development and boxes of ammunition from the Chinese and Jordanian armies in or near the compound.
They also discovered nine bodies clad in military fatigues and found boxes of passports and identification documents at the end of an underground tunnel leading to a nearby courtyard, the newspaper said.
Al-Zarqawi last month renamed his group al-Qaida in Iraq, and his followers have been blamed for a number of deadly bombings and beheadings of foreign hostages, including three Americans and a Briton. The United States has offered a $25 million reward for his capture or killing — the same amount as for Osama bin Laden.
The senior U.S. Marine commander in Iraq cautioned that the discovery by soldiers in Fallujah was still being investigated.
“I cannot stand here and tell you that we found the command and control house or building where Zarqawi went ahead and orchestrated and dealt his (car bombs) ... and the other death and destruction that he has spread throughout the country of Iraq,” Lt. Gen. John Sattler told reporters at the Pentagon in a video teleconference from Fallujah. “We will continue to look for that.”
Al-Zarqawi nephew detained near border
In neighboring Jordan, authorities detained al-Zarqawi’s nephew near the border with Iraq, a distant relative and a clergyman close to the family said Thursday.
The clergyman and the relative, both of whom spoke on condition of anonymity, said security officials had informed the family that Mohammed al-Harahsheh was detained last month. The relative said al-Harahsheh was being questioned on suspicion of attempting to infiltrate into Iraq to join his militant uncle.
Calls to Al-Zarqawi’s family home in Zarqa, an industrial city northeast of the Jordanian capital, Amman, went unanswered.
Also, Sattler said the U.S.-led offensive launched last week in Fallujah has “broken the back of the insurgency” by seizing their main base of operations.
“We feel right now that we have, as I mentioned, broken the back of the insurgency. We’ve taken away this safe haven,” he said.
Sattler cautioned, however, that insurgents remained a threat. A group attacked U.S. Marines and Iraqi government forces from a house inside Fallujah on Thursday, killing one Marine and one Iraqi soldier, Sattler said. One Marine and one Iraqi soldier also were wounded.