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Suspected top aide to al-Zarqawi a U.S. citizen

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A suspected senior aide to the head of al Qaeda in Iraq has dual citizenship in the United States and Jordan, a senior Pentagon official confirmed Thursday.

The man, who is in U.S. custody, is considered to have "personal ties" to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the most-wanted insurgent leader in Iraq, the official said. The man has been in U.S. custody since late 2004, he said.

The official would not identify him, but said the prisoner's U.S. citizenship had been "verified" and that the man had "lived for a significant time in the U.S."

The official said the man had been captured in a large city in Iraq, in a home that contained weapons and bomb-making material.

U.S. officials believe he aided the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq, transferred funds to support terrorists and assisted in planning and carrying out kidnappings in Iraq, the official said.

Whether he will ever be returned to the United States for prosecution is not known, but the official did note that as a U.S. citizen he would not face the military commissions established at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to try terrorism suspects. American citizens are excluded from that process.

The disclosure Thursday was made, the official said, "because this is a unique case. He has dual citizenship. We felt we should acknowledge this at some point in time."

Previously, two U.S. citizens were seized fighting against American forces in Afghanistan. John Walker Lindh pleaded guilty in July 2002 to a charge of aiding the Taliban. (Full story)

And Yaser Esam Hamdi was released to his native Saudi Arabia in October after being held by the United States for almost three years. (Full story)

The United States has placed a $25 million bounty on Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi's head. He is wanted for fueling the insurgency in Iraq and in connection with the beheadings of several Western hostages, as well as Iraqis and other civilians.

Last year, he declared his allegiance to al Qaeda and changed the name of his group from Unification and Jihad to al Qaeda in Iraq.

Earlier in March, Jordan sentenced al-Zarqawi in absentia to 15 years in jail for a plot to attack the country's embassy in Iraq, Jordanian officials told CNN. It was al-Zarqawi's second such sentence in Jordan; he was earlier sentenced to death for killing a U.S. diplomat in Amman.



Interesting on how this guy kept U.S. Citizenship and still fought for al Qaeda. I guess he thinks its going to protect him.

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