Detained man is Qaeda-linked group leader: Iraq
Pakistan president believes bin Laden is dead
Iraq confirmed the identity of a suspect captured last week as Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, believed to be head of the Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaeda-linked group, as Pakistan’s President Zardari said he suspected Osama bin Laden was dead.
The arrest of al-Baghdadi could deal a blow to a weakened, yet still potent, insurgency in Iraq at a time when a rash of major bombings has cast a shadow over recent security gains.
"As someone who works at the Defense Ministry and in the security field, I affirm that this is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi," Mohammed al-Askari, spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry, told al-Iraqiya state television.
He said the arrest was carried out without American military assistance. "The operation was totally successful."
Baghdadi is said to be the head of the Islamic State of Iraq, close to al-Qaeda's main organization in Iraq, which is led by Abu Ayyub al-Masri, also known as Abu Hamza al-Muhajir.
Some experts have said they remain unconvinced that Abu Omar al-Baghdadi actually exists.
They believe he is a fictional character invented by al-Qaeda in Iraq as a kind of corporate logo, a product of a propaganda initiative to put an Iraqi figurehead at the top of an organization that is otherwise foreign-run.
On Sunday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told the BBC that the man was Baghdadi, and said that results of an investigation would be released. The U.S. military has not yet confirmed that it believes the man was in fact Baghdadi.
Iraqi officials have in the past claimed to have captured senior al-Qaeda operatives who later turned out to have been mistakenly identified.
As someone who works at the Defense Ministry and in the security field, I affirm that this is Abu Omar al-Baghdadi
Mohammed al-Askari, spokesman for the Iraqi Defense Ministry
Doubts bin Laden is alive
Meanwhile President Asif Ali Zardari said Monday that Pakistani intelligence believes al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is dead but acknowledged they had no evidence.
"The Americans tell me they don't know, and they are much more equipped than us to trace him. And our own intelligence services obviously think that he does not exist anymore, that he is dead,” Zardari told reporters.
"There is no news," the president said. "They obviously feel that he does not exist anymore but that's not confirmed, we can't confirm that."
Zardari was responding to reports that Pakistani Taliban in the troubled Swat valley have said they would welcome bin Laden if he wants to visit the former Pakistani hill resort which is now in the hands of Islamists.
The Americans tell me they don't know, and they are much more equipped than us to trace him. And our own intelligence services obviously think that he does not exist anymore, that he is dead
President Asif Ali Zardari
"The question is whether he is alive or dead. There is no trace of him," the president said.
Bin Laden, if he is still alive, turned 52 on March 10, but he is known to suffer from ill-health.
There have been reports that he had died of natural causes in the past, but they have never been corroborated, and security analysts believe intelligence agencies monitoring jihadi websites on the Internet would have picked up some chatter.