Report: US, Iraqi forces closing on al Zarqawi
US and Iraqi forces have been conducting an extensive cordon and search of Hamrin region based on intelligence that Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is believed to be hiding there, a newspaper reported on Thursday. Hamrin region is located in Salah ad Din governate which is neighboring al-Anbar governate and spreads between the cities of Tikrit and Kirkuk.
According to al Hayat newspaper, al Zarqawi has recently moved from al-Anbar to Salah ad Din after he lost the local and popular "logistical support" of the Sunni tribes in al Anbar.
This latest development comes following recent reports about the arrest of two senior aides to Zarqawi in Hamrin – Abu Naba and Abu Samra.
According to tribal sources quoted by the newspaper, al Zarqawi had to leave Fallujah after the people of the town blamed the Jordan-born militant for the killing of a prominent and admired Sunni community leader. Following the assassination, locals decided to "clean the city of Zarqawi elements," the sources said. Before his assassination, Sheikh Kamal Nazal, a Sunni preacher and chairman of the Fallujah city council, held contacts with the Iraqi government. Last month, Sheikh Nazal even welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and US ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to the city.
Earlier, Sheikh Nazal had publicly supported the resistance against US occupation forces and expressed support in al Zarqawi.