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Page last updated at 02:25 GMT, Sunday, 1 March 2009

Iraqis detain al-Qaeda 'minister'

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Iraqi security forces say they have captured 11 members of the country's al-Qaeda network, including the group's self-styled "oil minister".

Ali Mahmoud Mohammed and 10 other suspected insurgents were detained on Saturday in a village in Iraq's volatile Diyala province, reports say.

He is suspected of planning attacks on oil tanker trucks.

The US says al-Qaeda has been pushed out of much of Iraq, but is still capable of large-scale attacks.

Reports say al-Qaeda in Iraq used the self-proclaimed ministerial titles to refer to key members of their organisation.

Iraq's interior ministry described Ali Mahmoud Mohammed as the organisation's "oil minister".

Threat diminished

The latest raids come just a week after al-Qaeda in Iraq's self-styled "irrigation minister" and "finance minister" were arrested in another operation on 21 February.

The head of al-Qaeda in Iraq is said to be known as the group's "war minister".

Much of al-Qaeda's support comes from the area around Diyala and in the province of Nineveh.

Although its capacity for staging attacks has been reduced, it is still viewed as a major threat in Diyala and around the northern city of Mosul.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq was responsible for a violent insurgent campaign in the years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, but its influence has lessened because of the success of a US campaign to isolate it from Iraq's tribal leaders and Sunni Muslim communities.

The US military succeeded in winning Sunnis over by striking deals and bringing thousands of potential insurgents onto the US payroll, arming and training them.

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