A special unit from the Iraqi Interior Ministry's counter-terrorism agency arrested the "wali of southern Baghdad" along with 14 other suspects, the ministry announced Thursday (September 20th).
"A force from the anti-terrorism agency raided a residential building in al-Latifiyah, south of Baghdad, where an al-Qaeda-affiliated cell was holding a meeting," ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Adel Dahham said.
"The force arrested Najib al-Qara Ghulli, who is known as the 'wali of southern Baghdad', and 14 other gunmen inside the building and seized different weapons and explosives," he said.
Dahham said the raid was based on precise intelligence information.
"Al-Qara Ghulli took over the post of 'wali of southern Baghdad' after the death of Amin Hameed Majeed, another al-Qaeda terrorist who committed suicide when Iraqi forces besieged him north of Fallujah in July," said Col. Dhia al-Wakeel, spokesperson for the Baghdad operations command.
"The 14 other terrorists who were accompanying al-Qara Ghulli represented a dangerous terrorist cell, known for its boldness in conducting violent attacks and not showing mercy to any child, elderly person or woman," al-Wakeel told Mawtani.
"The gunmen confessed during the initial interrogation that they were holding the meeting to discuss launching terrorist attacks over the next two weeks, using a number of car bombs and explosive charges," he said.
"These attacks were supposed to coincide with the inauguration of […] a number of energy projects and housing compounds, as well as other projects in the capital Baghdad, with the aim of inflicting the largest number of casualties among civilians and government officials," al-Wakeel said.
"A special engineering unit managed to uncover about 800 kilogrammes of explosives, found hidden in an underground storage room in the building," Maj. Gen. Nasser al-Ghannam, commander of the Iraqi army's 17th Division, told Mawtani.
The room "was sealed off completely, and explosives were taken out of it whenever cell members needed them," he added.
Hassan al-Sunaid, chairman of parliament's defence and security committee, told Mawtani, "The arrest of al-Qara Ghulli and his group meant that terrorist attacks, which were about to kill dozens of people within the next few days, were aborted."
"The raid the security forces conducted gave these innocent people a new lease on life, and provided an opportunity for the Iraqi people and the world to glimpse the scope of terrorist schemes aimed at undermining life in Iraq," he added.