A senior member of Saddam Hussein’s former government is believed to be coordinating attacks on American forces in Iraq, with the help of a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda.

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Former Iraqi general, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, is reportedly behind the spate of attacks, a senior US defence official said.

The information came from two captured members of Ansar al-Islam and is the first solid evidence of links between remnants of Saddam’s regime and the non-Iraqi fighters behind at least some of the attacks on US posts.

According to Pentagon officials, Ansar al-Islam, which operated in northern Iraq before its camp was destroyed during the war, poses the biggest threat to the country.

Number six on the US list of 55 most wanted Iraqis, Al-Douri is the highest ranking former Iraqi leader still at large other than Saddam Hussein.

General Ricardo Sanchez, the US commander on the ground, told NBC television in an interview on Tuesday that the US military has suspected a relationship between former regime loyalists and foreign fighters.

“There are some clear indicators that now they have begun to work together,” he said.

Attacks on American troops have surged this week to about 33 a day, up from 26 per day last week and 15 per day in early September.

A series of car bombings in and near Baghdad this week killed more than three dozen people.

Meanwhile, a powerful committee in the United States Senate has set a two-day deadline for the CIA to handover documents about America’s intelligence assessments on Iraq in the run-up to the war.

The Senate committee is preparing to publish its report on Iraq, which some believe will criticise the CIA for overstating the case against Saddam Hussein.

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