Iraqi police in Anbar province arrested last week a leading figure within al-Qaeda in Iraq known as the 'slaughterer' and believed to be responsible for beheading several citizens and members of the security forces.
He was captured in Fallujah's Jubail neighbourhood on December 26th.
"A force from the Special Storming Unit, which is part of the Anbar police counter-terrorism bureau, arrested Majeed Khalaf -- known as the 'slaughterer' -- along with four of his aides while they were inside a residential building," said Anbar police chief Maj. Gen. Hadi Erzaij.
"Local residents of the neighbourhood reported to police the presence of Khalaf and four gunmen after one of the residents photographed the gunmen entering the house using his mobile phone camera, and then delivered the footage to the police as evidence," he said.
Erzaij told Mawtani that security forces were able to "encircle the house in record time, evacuate the street in anticipation of clashes that might inflict casualties among the residents, and storm the house, arresting the five gunmen".
"Various weapons and explosives were found in the possession of the gunmen, in addition to documents, pocket-size al-Qaeda books and a list of names --some whom had been killed and others still alive but believed to be among those the gunmen were planning to kill," he said.
"The five gunmen formed an important cell for al-Qaeda, headed by Khalaf," Erzaij added. "They are now in jail [and are facing] interrogation before they are set to face the Iraqi courts to receive their fair punishment in accordance with Article 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Law in Iraq."
Brig. Mohammad Rasheed al-Obaidi, commander of the Anbar Police Rapid Intervention Force, said the suspect was involved in the 2006 killing of 21 civilians inside a car wash station in the al-Saqlawiya district, north of Fallujah.
"Among [the dead] were 12 security men and others who had been accused of blasphemy because they worked at reconstruction projects that at the time were supervised by coalition forces", al-Obaidi said.
Khalaf would often decapitate his victims and set their heads on their chests facing a camera as he chanted slogans, terrorising citizens and local residents, he said.
Al-Obaidi said security personnel also suspect that Khalaf "was involved in the slaughter of six engineers who were working at a government-owned oil company, in addition to dozens of other crimes that made people give him his nickname, 'the slaughterer'."
During the security operation, "the police found 700kg of explosives and 62 small-size magnetic charges, some of which are not bigger than a packet of cigarettes and are used in assassinations", he told Mawtani.
Police also uncovered "weapons equipped with silencers, ammunition of various calibres, swords, hooks used for torture, daggers, and various paper and electronic documents whose contents cannot be divulged because of the continuing investigation", he added.
"The arrest reinforced citizens' trust in security forces, because the 'slaughterer' was a figure that invoked terror among citizens for his savagery," Mohammad Fathi Hantoush, Anbar provincial government spokesperson, told Mawtani.
Hantoush said that Anbar province paid four citizens substantial cash rewards on December 31st for helping security officials capture Khalaf.
Meanwhile, family members of the "slaughterer's" victims said that justice would finally be served.
Saad Abdullah, Director of the Cultural Institution in Fallujah, who suspects that his eldest son Bashir, 24, was killed by Khalaf, said, sobbing, "No human can do this. He beheaded my beloved son for no reason except he was working at a trading company, which [al-Qaeda] claimed was supplying the army with food."
"Today, the time for taking punishment on al-Qaeda and the 'slaughterer' has come," he said.