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Iraqi Official Arrested for Possible Ties to Terrorists - 2004-09-26


U.S. authorities in Iraq have arrested a man chosen to lead Iraq's National Guard in one of the country's most troubled and violent provinces.

Just two weeks after being named to head the Iraqi National Guard in the Diyala province, Gen. Talib Abd Ghayib al-Lahibi was arrested by U.S. forces.

The former Iraqi military officer is suspected of ties to militant groups fighting coalition forces in Iraq. No other details of his arrest were provided by U.S. authorities in Baghdad.

Although the suspect had been named to head the National Guard in the Diyala district, he had not yet been confirmed by Iraq's interim government. A senior Iraqi Interior Ministry official said allegations of possible ties to militant groups "surfaced" more than a week ago. The official said the arrest occurred following an investigation that included surveillance of Mr. al-Lahibi.

The Iraqi National Guard is the centerpiece of U.S. efforts to build a strong security force, capable of taking over from U.S. troops and restoring stability in the country.

Meanwhile, an American soldier has been sentenced to 25-years confinement for killing an Iraqi National Guard soldier last May. The U.S. military issued a statement saying Specialist Federico Merida pled guilty to murder and making false statements during court martial proceedings. His sentence also included a dishonorable discharge and a reduction in rank.

U.S. forces in Fallujah, west of Baghdad, continue to monitor the movement of suspected terrorists associated with wanted militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Using aircraft, tanks and artillery, U.S. forces have launched targeted attacks against locations where the suspected militants were believed to be holding meetings. Coalition officials said those meetings were to map out plans for more attacks against Iraqi citizens and coalition forces.

A targeted attack in Fallujah killed at least seven people and wounded about 10 others. U.S. authorities said approximately 10 suspected terrorists were believed meeting at the location when the attack occurred.

Meanwhile, two senior officials of the Muslim Council of Britain are in Baghdad to try to win the release of British engineer Kenneth Bigley, who was abducted last week with two American colleagues, who were later killed.

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