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BAGHDAD ? Abu Mussib al-Zarqawi, regarded as the leading foreign insurgent in Iraq, is believed to be shuttling between Iran and Iraq.

Western intelligence sources said the United States has concluded that al-Zarqawi has not been in Iraq for more than a month. The sources said al-Zarqawi left the Sunni Triangle for the Iran-Iraq border and has been moving in an arc from Iran in the east to Syria in the west as he continues to relay orders, plan operations and transfer funds.

“Much of the time he is in Iran, where he has been given safe haven,” an intelligence source said. “The United States won’t cross the Iranian border to get him.”

Sources said al-Zarqawi was last seen in the Iraqi town of Dour in the area of Baghdad on June 18, where he held a meeting with a senior aide to deposed President Saddam Hussein, Izzat Ibrahim Douri.

Douri, regarded as a major financier of the Sunni insurgency, reportedly gave the al-Qaida-aligned insurgent large amounts of weapons and equipment. From Dour, al-Zarqawi traveled to Iran and was said to have been in Marivan in northern Iran through late July.

Iran has been harboring a number of senior al-Qaida operatives including the son of Osama Bin Laden, Saad Bin Laden, and Seif Al Adel and Mustafa Setmariam Nasser, suspected of planning the train bombings in Spain in March 2004.

Al-Zarqawi has long benefited from Iranian help. He shuttled between Iran and Iraq on the eve of the U.S.-led war in 2002 and early 2003. After the United States drove Saddam from power, al-Zarqawi returned to northern Iraq and used Ansar Al Islam as a base to organize the Sunni insurgency against the coalition.

Over the past two months, the U.S. military has conducted a series of air strikes against suspected al-Zarqawi strongholds in the Sunni-dominated Iraqi city of Fallujah. But the sources said that al-Zarqawi was not in Fallujah during the air strikes.

On Aug. 2, Iraqi officials accused al-Zarqawi of masterminding the bombing of four churches in the Baghdad area. Fifteen people were killed in the series of attacks on Aug. 1.



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