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Iraq: Two top terrorists arrested

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Iraqi police commandos search a car at a checkpoint in the southern city of Basra on Thursday.

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BAGHDAD, Iraq (CNN) -- Iraq's Interior Ministry announced Thursday it had arrested its second "high-ranking terrorist" in a week.

Hamza Khair al-Aini, accused of killing dozens of Iraqi civilians and security forces, was hiding in the town of Abu Saydah north of Baghdad, where police said they caught him. They found a bloody saw and clothes in his hideout, the ministry said.

The ministry's statement did not say when the arrest took place.

The statement came a day after Iraq announced its forces had arrested Ahmed Hussein Dabash Samir al-Batawi, another "key terrorist," on Monday

Al-Batawi was involved in the March 2004 bombing of Karbala that killed more than 140 Iraqis, most of them Shiite pilgrims, according to Iraqi and U.S. military officials.

During his arrest, Iraqi forces from the Terrorist Combat Unit seized documents that listed potential attack targets.

U.S. military spokesman Maj. Gen. William Caldwell said the arrest "is very, very significant to us."

"We truly believe with his capture, that this will provide us some critical information as we continue trying to unravel the al Qaeda in Iraq network," Caldwell said.

Cabinet announcements due Sunday

Nearly two weeks after Iraq's parliament approved the country's new government, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said he will announce his nominations for the key posts of the Interior and Defense ministries during Sunday's Parliament session.

When the new Iraqi government was approved by the Parliament on May 20, the hope was that the Defense and Interior ministers could be filled within a week.

On Sunday, Iraq's deputy prime minister pleaded for understanding over the delay.

Salih said it "is a safe bet ... but not by any means a foregone conclusion" that the defense minister will be an Iraqi Sunni and the interior minister a Shiite.

Their ethnicity is critical, given that al-Maliki has vowed to disarm the militias loyal to Iraq's various ethnic groups -- one of the most difficult issues the new prime minister faces.

"The issue of organized armed groups who are acting outside the state and outside the law are becoming a serious problem for our politics and our society and we have to deal with it," he said.

On Wednesday, al-Maliki declared a one-month state of emergency in Basra, vowing to use an "iron fist" on criminal gangs blamed for an increase in violence in the southern Iraqi city. (Full story)

Other developments

  • Mortar rounds exploded in an outdoor market Thursday evening, killing a 2-year-old child and wounding 34 people, Baghdad police reported.
  • CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier, wounded in a Baghdad bombing Monday, is communicating with relatives in writing, the network said. Her first question was about the fate of two colleagues killed in the blast. (Full story)
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