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Wednesday, 5 February, 2003, 18:11 GMT
Zarqawi and the 'al-Qaeda link'
Colin Powell at the UN Security Council
Powell: Zarqawi directs network from Baghdad
American claims of a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda rest heavily on reports that a Jordanian al-Qaeda associate, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, has been given a safe haven in Iraq.

In his presentation to the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell alleged that members of Mr Zarqawi's group connected with al-Qaeda have been operating freely in Baghdad for more than eight months.

Mr Powell said: "These al-Qaeda affiliates... now co-ordinate the movement of people, money and supplies into and throughout Iraq for [Mr Zarqawi's] network."

Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi
Zaqarwi has been sentenced to death in his own country
He said Mr Zarqawi, a young Jordanian of Palestinian descent, had operated al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan specialising in manufacturing poisons.

He said that after the fall of the Taleban, Mr Zarqawi travelled to north-eastern Iraq, where he and his network helped establish another camp specialising in producing deadly poisons, including ricin.

Mr Powell alleged that Mr Zarqawi's lieutenants were operating in a part of Iraq outside the control of Saddam Hussein but controlled by an Islamic group called Ansar al-Islam (Supporters of Islam).

Iraq haven

"Baghdad has an agent in the most senior levels of the radical organisation, Ansar al-Islam," Mr Powell told Security Council members. "In 2000 this agent offered al-Qaeda safe haven in the region. After we swept al-Qaeda from Afghanistan, some of its members accepted this safe haven."

The leader of Ansar, Mullah Krekar, has denied allegations linking his group with al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein.

Mullah Krekar
Mullah Krekar has denied links with al-Qaeda or Saddam Hussein
Mr Zarqawi is also said to have sought and received medical treatment in Baghdad in May and June 2002 after being injured in the fighting in Afghanistan. His leg was amputated by a surgeon.

He is also accused of masterminding the assassination of US diplomat Lawrence Foley in Amman last October.

Last December Jordanian authorities announced that two men believed to have been al-Qaeda operatives had confessed to killing the diplomat and that they had been directed by Mr Zarqawi.

"From his terrorist network in Baghdad, Zarqawi can direct his network in the Middle East and beyond," Mr Powell told the Security Council.

European bases

Mr Zarqawi has also been sentenced to death in his own country for planning bombings.

Also known as Ahmed al-Khalayleh, Mr Zarqawi is believed to have travelled extensively since the 11 September attacks, including in Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey.

Mr Powell linked him with al-Qaeda operations in Europe, specifically mentioning France, Britain and Spain.

According to previous Western intelligence reports, he is thought to have used London as his base until Osama Bin Laden ordered him to move to Afghanistan.

In November last year, he was named by the head of the German secret service as a likely mastermind of any potential attacks.

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US Secretary of State Colin Powell
"Iraq and terrorism go back decades"

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