Sunday, May 29, 2005

Iraq's Zarqawi not in Iran, says official

Iran denied on Sunday a British newspaper report that al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had fled to the Islamic republic after being seriously injured in a U.S. missile attack. READ MORE

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the report in the Sunday Times newspaper was without foundation.

"This is an unprofessional kind of fabricating news," Asefi told a weekly news conference. "Iran is a clear and transparent country, where such covert activities do not take place."

Quoting a senior insurgency commander in Iraq, the Sunday Times said Zarqawi had shrapnel lodged in his chest and may have been moved to Iran. It said his supporters might try to move the Jordanian-born militant to another country for an operation.

Zarqawi, accused of masterminding suicide bombings, ambushes and assassinations in Iraq, was wounded three weeks ago when a U.S. missile hit his convoy near the northwestern Iraqi city of al Qaim, the Sunday Times quoted the unnamed source as saying.

Washington has offered a $25 million bounty for Zarqawi.

The United States has accused Iran of harbouring al Qaeda militants who escaped Afghanistan after U.S. troops invaded in late 2001 following the Sept. 11 attacks.

Tehran acknowledges that al Qaeda members have managed to cross its long and hard-to-police borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan. But it denies providing safe-haven to al Qaeda members and has extradited scores of suspected militants who have fled to Iran in the last four years.