Iraq increases efforts to capture al-Qaeda leaders operating in Syria

Officials are calling on Iraqi citizens to help arrest top al-Qaeda leaders. Above, an Iraqi policeman speaks with a citizen at a checkpoint in Baghdad. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Officials are calling on Iraqi citizens to help arrest top al-Qaeda leaders. Above, an Iraqi policeman speaks with a citizen at a checkpoint in Baghdad. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

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The Iraqi government is more than doubling the cash reward for information on top al-Qaeda figures, including some believed to be trying to create a new operations hub in neighbouring Syria, security officials said Friday (December 14th).

Leaders and elements of al-Qaeda in Iraq are increasing their movements in Syria in efforts to create a new base of operations by exploiting the current instability in the country, according to Brig. Gen. Hussein al-Musawi, commander of the interior ministry's rapid intervention forces.

They include: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq; Anas Hassan Khattab, the organisation's general co-ordinator; and Maysara al-Jubury, former spokesperson for the organisation and current operative in charge of recruiting suicide bombers.

Iraqis who provide information on men wanted by security forces for their involvement in major terrorism cases will now receive 250 million dinars ($250,000) instead of 100 million dinars ($86,000) according to Gen. Ali Ghaidan, commander of the Iraqi army ground forces.

The rewards also apply to 14 other al-Qaeda leaders, including Ali Khalaf al-Majmaie and Jawad Hayes al-Dulaimi, Ghaidan said.

The names of these leaders, who are "the main engine for violence in the country" and whose "arrest will lead to considerable stability in citizens' lives", were posted on street billboards, as well as in public buildings, markets and at security checkpoints throughout Iraq, he said.

Al-Qaeda in Iraq attempting to expand to Syria

On September 18th, Iraqi border guards arrested a gunman in the Rabia area on the Syrian-Iraqi border, al-Musawi said, adding that the gunman confessed al-Qaeda elements in Iraq were planning operations in Syria.

"The man belonged to al-Qaeda and had letters addressed to terrorist elements on the movement of other elements between Iraq and Syria," he added.

"The letters also contained information confirming that Jabhat al-Nusra is attempting to recruit Syrian children and teenagers in an attempt to exploit the zeal of participating in the [Syrian] revolution," al-Musawi said.

The gunman also confessed that "Jabhat al-Nusra is attempting to create parallels between terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria by using the same tactics used in Iraq", he added.

'Instigators of violence'

The al-Qaeda in Iraq leaders have been travelling back and forth between Iraq and Syria since the political crisis in Syria escalated more than a year and a half ago, al-Musawi said.

The wanted men, along with Jabhat al-Nusra members, have been moving between the two countries through Rabia in Ninawa province, Peesh Khabor in Dohuk province and al-Qaim in Anbar province, he said.

Al-Musawi said that these elements are exploiting the Syrian regime's lack of control over its border with Iraq, adding that they aim to create in Syria a springboard for terrorist activities to compensate for losses in Iraq.

They are "instigating violence [in Syria] similar to the way they instigated violence in Iraq", he said. "They are now training other al-Qaeda members in Syria on how to kill, set explosives, fire rockets and manufacture explosive charges."

"They also have links to other terrorist groups belonging to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Eritrea", al-Musawi added.

Al-Musawi said the organisation's goal "is not to defend the Syrian people, but to position itself inside Syria".

"They are a source of evil wherever they are," he said, calling on the International Criminal Police Organisation (Interpol) to help arrest the suspects if they are found outside Iraq.

"We hope that Iraqis will maintain contact with us, and alongside the efforts of security forces, we hope to arrest them at any moment," he added. "We appeal to everyone to co-operate with us for the sake of a secure Iraq."

Al-Musawi said telephone lines for the interior and defence ministries, the national intelligence service, and army and police units operating in every city are open and free of charge.

The numbers that citizens can call include 103 and 104, 5603 -- a new line supervised by the defence ministry -- the landlines 173101, 8173102, 8173103, 8173104, 8173105, 8173106, 8173107 and 8173108, or the number 400, which belongs to the national intelligence service.

'We will quickly capture them'

Iraqi Defence Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi told Mawtani the wanted men undertook attacks that left numerous victims, including women and children, adding that they worked to ignite sectarian and ethnic strife in the country.

He said security forces will deal confidentially with Iraqis who report these figures, their whereabouts, the areas they frequent and the people they deal with.

"These terrorist figures are not only a threat to Iraq, but also to all countries in the region because they are like a malignant disease that spreads and metastasises to kill the largest number of people," he said.

Ghaidan described the attacks the men organised as "massive" and said they killed and injured hundreds of people and displaced many Iraqi families.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is "the primary engine for all terrorist strikes in Iraq" and was also involved in attacks in the Kurdistan region, the 2005 Amman hotel bombings, and in "acts of violence in other countries as well", he said.

Maysara al-Jubury "is involved in recruiting Arab and foreign suicide bombers and is considered a highly-influential al-Qaeda leader", Ghaidan said.

Anas Hasan Khattab "was involved in the terrorist attack that targeted the United Nations (UN) building in 2003, which killed and wounded scores of people including the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative [in Iraq] Sergio de Mello, and a number of other UN employees", he said.

Khattab is also involved in blowing up military bases and police centres and targeting innocent citizens, Ghaidan said.

"Iraqi security forces are making serious efforts to collect intelligence [and] military and field data to pursue them," he told Mawtani, adding that security forces "made great strides in 2012 in terms of gathering information on them and a full description of their facial features and methods of movement".

"We are optimistic we will quickly capture them if citizens co-operate with security forces," Ghaidan said.

Syrian opposition distances itself from jihadist groups

Syrian opposition members have said that some jihadist groups operating in Syria bear no relation to the opposition and work towards goals inconsistent with the revolution.

Asked about media reports of rising influence of jihadist groups such as the Brigade of Islam, Descendants of the Prophet Brigade and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria, Syrian opposition members said such groups have no place in Syrian society.

"Do not fear for Syria because of the religious extremists, for in reality, Syrian society does not accept those extremist ideas and has historically rejected them as alien to its fabric, and it will oppose them in the future as it does now," Abdulbaset Sieda, former head of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, told Al-Shorfa.

Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo contributed to this report.

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  • READER COMMENTS

    فاضل الجماسي

    2013-2-20

    Protecting Iraq is a sacred duty upon us all.

  • ابو محمد العربي

    2013-2-16

    I think that if they asked the help of the Al-Iraqia List, they would be caught within two days only, because most of the terrorists believe that the Al-Iraqia list is with them, but I doubt that.

  • ابن البلد

    2013-2-13

    The Iraqis are zealous people and if they did not collaborate, they would be humiliated.

  • علي الساعدي

    2013-2-11

    Good morning to Iraq, the home of honor and grandeur.

  • علي الساعدي

    2013-2-11

    O God! protect Iraq and the brave security forces

  • SAYED JAMAL

    2013-2-6

    IRAQIS WERE KNOWN FOR THIER BROTHERHOOD ALQAEDA AND AMERICA SUCCESSFULLY DIVIDED THEM ON SECTARIAN GROUNDS .AMERICA HAS GONE SO WILL ALQAEDA AS IRAQIS NOW KNOW THIER TRUE FACE THEY (QAEDA) ARE SEARCHING FOR A HOMELAND FOR THIER BARBARIC IDEOLOGY THEY CAN GO TO KSA QATAR TURKEY BUT NOT IRAQ

  • فراق الاسدي من كربلاء

    2013-1-26

    Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Turkey represent the source of terrorism and they send 20000 per day to each demonstrator just to stand in the street.

  • من العراق

    2013-1-26

    O God! protect all the Muslims in the world and have mercy upon us, as you Are the Most Merciful the ever Merciful. O God! destroy the terrorist cells and crush them.

  • mah119988

    2013-1-25

    I am Hussein Shamran Edan Hamzah, I want any job in the federal police.

  • بصراويه

    2013-1-20

    O God! protect Iraq and its people.

  • ابو حسين الكعبي

    2013-1-20

    O God! grant victory to the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people as well as the Syrian government and Bashar. O God! defeat the bloody and accursed Al-Qaeda. long live the hero Nouri Al-Maliki and Bashar.

  • روان محمد

    2013-1-19

    Iraq is a crown over the heads of all the honorable Arabs.

  • جاسم الموصلي

    2013-1-14

    Nothing can defeat the great Iraq whether terrorism or anything else.

  • ابو عمر

    2013-1-14

    Woe to the apostates.

  • سامح يحي خلف

    2013-1-12

    May God grant victory to the great Iraq and the men of Anbar, the heroes who started this sit-in, which will end with the expulsion of Al-Maliki and his apostate aids. Amin Asad – Anbar

  • سفير

    2013-1-10

    I ask God the Almighty to provide the completely Muslim nation and us with security. How can we enjoy security while some representatives demand the cancellation of the Accountability and Justice Law to release the killers and the criminal supporters of the former deposed tyrant? Please, try to understand. We ask God for guidance.

  • عمران

    2013-1-9

    No one can deny that the crimes of terrorism have horribly increased inside Iraq, while the world suffices with watching the victims’ meter, which continues counting. Therefore, we see bloodbaths and the organs of the victims everywhere. We hardly can identify the bodies, which is very difficult to us all in the Arab world. The Iraqis feel that they pay the price of neglecting their rights. I have no information about the objectives of the terrorists or their motives to commit these horrible crimes. I sympathize with Iraqis after reading many times about the horrible terrorist crimes in Iraq. I even wept when I saw a child weeping over the last moment when he saw his parents. What is the guilt of the children to live as orphans without parents or brothers? He said that he wishes to be a victim like his parents because they left me alone and I live soulless. I already have young children living inside me. This is the reality in our country while the advanced states do their best to make their children happy and the state does its best to take care of the children. However, we must adapt to these conditions and I demand the Iraqi people and tribes to cooperate with the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in order to confront terrorism as soon as possible.

  • سيد حسين

    2013-1-8

    Were it not for the honorable cooperation between the tribal Iraqi leaders and the security forces in reporting the terrorist leaders of Al-Qaeda, we would have never seen this patriotic sense, which encourages all people to defy terrorism. We feel that the leaders of Iraq must continue this support because we do not want this cooperation to be incidental. The tribal leaders in Kirkuk and their behavior as to reporting some terrorists commanders is a great step towards getting rid of the terrorists.

  • ضياء الدين

    2013-1-8

    There is no doubt that the Iraqi security forces always demand the importance of cooperation with the people. The Arab people must not ignore this issue, but we must always seek to cooperate and consider this as a priority in order to maintain security and call for the construction of the new future. Therefore, I demand and call on the Iraqi people with all of its groups to set all the disagreements aside and cooperate to form a unified front with one title: No to Terrorism & No to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. When we have a unified demand, the powers of the Iraqi people with the help of the security forces can pave the way for building a better Iraq that is free from the terrorist elements and that has a better future for the Iraqis, God willing.

  • ام سبف

    2013-1-7

    May God help all the Iraqis who are jealous over their country and seek to achieve the justice for fear of God.

  • السيد

    2013-1-7

    We should not fool ourselves. In fact, the security forces are required to carry out further efforts because of the presence of this terrorist organization or the different other organizations in general, in the places which represent a fertile ground for them. The second important issue is that these organizations exist in the places and countries wherein the military resistance of these terrorist groups is below the required level.

  • بنت العراق

    2013-1-6

    Iraq needs time to restore everything to its rightful place.

  • احمد محمود

    2013-1-5

    This is a call to the Iraqi judiciary to take all the necessary precautions against terrorism in the recent period, because many terrorists have been arrested and this would allow the fair judiciary to reach many of the heads of corruption belonging to the terrorist organization al-Qaeda in Iraq. The latter control their members remotely, while they are away from the actual terrorist operations, which kill many innocent souls. Of course, this price is very high and no one can compensate the families of the victims, which would always remember their lost ones. No money can quench the fire of sorrow over the dead relatives and children. The only thing that may sooth them is that their lost ones would go to Paradise with the martyrs.

  • مراد لطيف

    2013-1-4

    The most important thing is that the leaderships should be arrested, because they are the main cause of all the harms in Iraq. If the leaders were arrested, the rest would be like rats and they would not be able to do anything, just like a snake, if the head was cut off, the body would die. Best regard to you dear brothers.

  • ريتا

    2013-1-4

    O God! Protect Iraq and its people.

  • ابن العراق

    2012-12-31

    Iraq can destroy the terrorist groups, it just needs time.

  • محمد

    2012-12-31

    I hope that one day the people of Iraq and Iran would live in security, tranquility, and justice.

  • ابوأمين

    2012-12-29

    Iraq will remain a high proud mountain at the face of the blind terrorism.

  • احمدفرقةال

    2012-12-27

    Iraq is above the head of terrorism.