Iraqi security forces successfully disrupted a meeting of top al-Qaeda leaders in Kirkuk province Friday (December 28th) and arrested six men, the Ministry of Defence said.
Among the detainees are three senior leaders – identified as Saad Naji, Faraj Farhan and Ali Salem – believed to have masterminded terrorist attacks in Kirkuk, Ninawa and the Himreen mountains, said Lt. Gen. Ali Ghaidan, commander of the Iraqi army land forces.
The three "carry death sentences in absentia for their roles in the murder of dozens of citizens and security forces, as well as causing injury to hundreds of others in violent terrorist attacks that hit the country in the past three years", he told Mawtani.
Members of the 2nd Army Division's 8th Brigade and the National Police Assault Unit carried out the raid early Friday morning after officials received a tip from tribal leaders about an important meeting of al-Qaeda commanders, Ghaidan said.
The meeting was being held early Friday morning in a huge residential building in al-Zaghaitun village, south of Kirkuk, he said.
"Aerial support [was provided] by the army, which succeeded in encircling the place, storming the building and clashing with the gunmen for a few minutes before [the suspects] were forced to surrender," he said.
The six detainees were taken to an army camp as a first step, he said, and later will be moved to a detention centre specifically used for cases of terrorism.
In addition to the arrests, Iraqi forces "seized large quantities of ammunition and weapons during the operation", he added.
"The raid went on swiftly as the information was delivered to the army by tribal leaders, which conformed with calls made by local citizens and farmers in that village," said Col. Nasser Saleh al-Taie, commander of the Iraqi army's 8th Brigade.
Al-Taie told Mawtani that Naji, Farhan and Salem "had also facilitated the movement of foreign and Iraqi suicide bombers, as well as taken part in criminal acts of money laundering".
The Iraqi parliament's security and defence committee chairman, Aifan al-Issawi, described the raid as an important accomplishment.
"Committee members were informed of the raid's details and were especially pleased by the security forces' courage and the extent of co-operation shown by the citizens, more than by the success of the operation itself," he told Mawtani.
"It is expected that the six terrorists and the details of the daring raid launched by the Iraqi forces will be shown on television to inform the public of the scope and horror of the crimes committed by the terrorists," al-Issawi said.
Such a report will demonstrate "the security forces' ability to confront terrorism, as well as the importance of co-operation between citizens and security forces in defeating al-Qaeda in this country," he said.