MOSUL, Iraq -- American forces have captured three members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network in northern Iraq, a US military commander said yesterday. If confirmed, it would be the first disclosed detention of Al Qaeda militants in Iraq.
About 10 members of Ansar Al Islam, an Islamic group US officials believe has Al Qaeda links in northern Iraq, also have been arrested by US troops in the past seven months, said Colonel Joe Anderson, commander of the Second Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division.
Asked if troops had captured members of Al Qaeda, Anderson, whose brigade controls Mosul, replied: "Three, two weeks ago."
Anderson said he believed the captured Al Qaeda men were Iraqi nationals who had been transferred to Baghdad for further interrogation.
It was not immediately possible to confirm the captures. In recent months, US forces in central Iraq have detained a handful of people suspected of ties to Al Qaeda, but American intelligence officials described them as mostly low-level operatives with unclear purposes in the country.
The Bush administration has asserted that bin Laden's terrorist network maintained links with the government of deposed Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. But US authorities searching Iraq since the invasion have said they have found little that would suggest links between the two.
Anderson also said that the Nov. 15 collision of two Black Hawk helicopters in Mosul -- the single deadliest incident of the war for American forces -- may have been caused by enemy fire.