BAGHDAD - Iraqi security forces have detained an al-Qaida militant suspected of planning an attack targeting the World Cup in South Africa next month, an official said yesterday.
Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Baghdad security services, said Abdullah Azam Saleh al-Qahtani was an officer in the Saudi army. He is suspected of planning a "terrorist act" in South Africa during the World Cup beginning June 11, al-Moussawi told a news conference in Baghdad.
He said al-Qahtani entered Iraq in 2004 and is suspected in several attacks in the capital and elsewhere in the country.
In South Africa, a police spokesman said Iraq had not notified them of the arrest. "We have not received any official reports from them," Vish Naidoo told The Associated Press. "Whatever arrest they made there, they know, we don't know anything about it."
Earlier yesterday, South African police paraded fire engines, armored carriers and other vehicles through Johannesburg to show they were ready to secure the country for the World Cup.
In Iraq, attacks blamed on al-Qaida have continued despite the killing last month of the group's two top figures in a U.S.-assisted military operation. Yesterday, assailants disguised in Iraqi military uniforms beheaded a Sunni cleric and stuck his head on an electricity pole in the town where he preached against al-Qaida, the cleric's son and Iraqi police said.
The son of the cleric Abdullah Jassim Shakour told The Associated Press the gunmen came to the family house in the town of Sadiyah, north of Baghdad, took his father into a room, killed him and walked away with his head.
The family found the headless body, said the son, Mohammed. Then they saw his head on an electric pole in the center of the town.