The noose is slowly tightening around the neck of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, as the U.S. keeps up the pressure around Fallujah and nabs an al-Zarqawi associate.
A newly promoted associate of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was arrested in Iraq on Saturday, the U.S. military reported, while elsewhere, two suicide car bombings and a drive-by shooting killed at least 14 people in separate incidents.
The al-Zarqawi associate was seized early Saturday along with five other terrorists in southern Falluja, the insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military said.
Their identities were not disclosed.
Initially, the al-Zarqawi associate was thought to be a minor member of the terrorist’s circle, however “due to a surge in the number of al-Zarqawi associates who have been captured or killed by [multinational forces] strikes and other operations, the member had moved up to take a critical position as an al-Zarqawi senior leader,” the U.S. military said.
Falluja has been the site of intensified U.S. attacks in recent weeks, with American forces stepping up their efforts against al-Zarqawi and his Unification and Jihad group, which has staged attacks against U.S. forces, Iraqi police and civilians.
The U.S. State Department is offering $25 million for the capture or death of al-Zarqawi, blamed for the recent series of beheadings and who last week swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden.
In another development, al-Zarqawi’s followers have dispersed to Falluja’s outlying areas, where they are attempting to hide among the civilian population, according to a U.S. military news release.
I’m wagering that al-Zarqawi ain’t sleeping too well at nights. His only hope may be a group of Sunni clerics who are threatening a boycott of the January elections if the coalition attacks Fallujah. It is my opinion that the pacification of Fallujah and the nullification of the terrorist al-Zarqawi is more pressing for the success of the elections than the threat of a partial Sunni boycott. After all, the Sunni clerics run the risk of taking a hit on their own credibility if their boycott is not a major impairment to Iraqi voting.