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Iraq says captures senior al Qaeda figure

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The Iraqi army captured a senior al Qaeda militant in a clash south of Baghdad on Thursday, a government security spokesman said.

Baghdad security spokesman Qassim al-Moussawi said the militant, Ahmed Turki Abbas, claimed the rank of defense minister of the al Qaeda-linked group Islamic State of Iraq.

Moussawi said Abbas was lightly wounded and was in the custody of Iraqi forces after being captured in the clash near the town of Mahmudiya, 30 km south of Baghdad.

Violence in Iraq has declined in recent months after Sunni Arab tribes turned against strict Islamist militants from al Qaeda and related groups. But U.S. commanders say al Qaeda remains a dangerous foe in Iraq.

Editing by Ibon Villelabeitia