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U.S. intel points to mastermind of attacks

Soldiers search a suspect Thursday during a raid in Tikrit.
Soldiers search a suspect Thursday during a raid in Tikrit.

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The U.S. believes it has gathered intelligence pointing to the man financing and coordinating attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.
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Facing criticism at home, President Bush said the United States will 'stay the course' in Iraq.
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Many Iraqis suspect recent suicide bombings were done by outsiders.
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• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide
Acts of terror
Saddam Hussein

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A former Iraqi general in Saddam Hussein's inner circle is believed to be financing and coordinating attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, Pentagon sources have told CNN.

Recent intelligence reports point to Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri, the Iraqi military's former northern regional commander, as the key figure behind the attacks, possibly with help from Iraqi regime loyalists and "foreign fighters," according to officials.

Al-Duri, the "King of Clubs" in the U.S. military's "most wanted" deck of cards, is the highest-ranking member of the Saddam Hussein regime still at large, except for Saddam himself.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, Pentagon officials said Wednesday the capture of several suspected members of Ansar al-Islam within the past week in northern Iraq provided the intelligence that points toward al-Duri.

Ansar al-Islam is a terrorist group based in Iraq with ties to al Qaeda.

Several suspects, including one said to be very close to al-Duri, said the general was the mastermind behind many of the attacks.

U.S. military forces searching for al-Duri and Saddam Hussein say they believe both are hiding out in an area of the country north of Baghdad, but not in the same place.

U.S. officials also confirmed Wednesday that there are indications that some of the recent attacks have involved "foreign fighters" -- people from outside Iraq -- working with regime loyalists.

Pentagon officials in recent days have repeatedly said they didn't know if there was cooperation between the various enemies of the coalition.

But other officials acknowledge that Lt. Gen. Rick Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, now believes there are "clear indications" that former regime officials and foreign terrorists are working together.

FBI Director Robert Mueller, whose agency is assisting in the investigation of recent terrorist attacks in Iraq, said Wednesday that it would be "premature" to lay responsibility for a wave of recent bombings "at the feet of any one entity."

But Mueller said "there are organizations and entities that we are looking at as possibly being responsible."

Officials said Wednesday that the average number of daily attacks against coalition forces now stands at 33, double the figure in early September.

Other developments

• The Senate Intelligence Committee has given the CIA until Friday at noon to produce documents on the intelligence community's pre-war assessments of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. (Full story)

• The International Committee of the Red Cross says it will reduce international staff in Iraq in response to Monday's bombing outside its Baghdad office, but would not be pulling out of the country. (Full story)

• Lawmakers crafting final language for the $87 billion spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan voted Wednesday to eliminate a requirement that half the $20 billion in Iraq reconstruction funds be paid back. The move is a major victory for the White House, which lobbied Congress to provide the money as a grant to the debt-laden country, not a loan as many Democrats and fiscal conservatives had argued.

• In Fallujah, assailants Wednesday ambushed a train believed to be carrying supplies for the U.S. military, sources told CNN. There were no reports of casualties. Coalition officials said the train was hit by rocket-propelled grenades, as it traveled east toward the Iraqi capital.

• Iraqi police Wednesday said they foiled an attack on their precinct when they detained a man armed with a grenade and a revolver outside the Baghdad station. CNN's Ben Wedeman arrived at the station, shortly after the man was detained. " Police ... were cursing at him, calling him a disgrace," he reported.

CNN's Jamie McIntyre, Kevin Bohn and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

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