Iraqi forces arrested the "al-Qaeda amir of eastern Iraq" and his aide in the area of al-Saadiyah in northeast Diyala province, officials announced Monday (July 19th).
Ahmed al-Zarkushi, director of al-Saadiyah sub-district, told Mawtani that a joint force from Iraqi Army's 1st Regiment, 2nd Rapid Reaction Brigade, and US forces arrested the suspects during a raid on an al-Qaeda headquarters.
Al-Zarkushi said one of the detainees was "in charge of al-Qaeda's operations in the eastern cities of Iraq. His name is Sheikh Zaid Hamid al-Karawi, and he was arrested while hiding in the house's water closet. He was carrying a fake identification card."
Al-Karawi is accused of assassinating and kidnapping 52 people, carrying out over eight bombings, damaging the province's infrastructure, and extorting money from citizens and contractors.
"Al-Karawi has confessed to having committed eight other operations, the most prominent of which is the execution of a six-member family in al-Saadiyah sub-district two years ago," al-Zarkushi said.
The joint force also arrested al-Karawi's suspected aide, Laith Hameed.
Al-Zarkushi noted the important US role in the operation. "US forces carried out an airdrop operation that facilitated the arrest of the terrorist and his aide."
Diyala police spokesperson Maj. Ghalib al-Karkhi said al-Karawi also confessed the location of a headquarters for a 20-member terrorist cell in the province. "Security forces are now quickly proceeding with intelligence maneuvers and analyzing information urgently to arrest the 20 terrorists," he said.
"We hope that the next days will carry happy news from the security forces about the arrest of the new terrorists," al-Karkhi said.
Diyala Governor Abdul Nassir al-Mahdawi told Mawtani, "The secret behind the repeated successes of the Iraqi forces is the cooperation of tribes of different sects and ethnicities with the security forces, in addition to the experience of the army and police forces operating in the province."
Al-Mahdawi said the arrest of al-Karawi and his aide is "a new victory for Iraqis in general, and for the people of the eastern region of Iraq in particular, given that the terrorism of al-Qaeda was affecting their lives in a direct way."
Citizens in Diyala expressed relief with the news.
"Only those who were with us and lived through the past years here can imagine the extent of our happiness with the arrest of those terrorists," said Mukhtar Salah, 32, a resident of Baqubah. "That terrorist used to suck life out of our streets and was killing the happiness of our children."
"The arrest of terrorists in this humiliating way sends out a message to all other terrorists that they are going to meet a similar fate," Salah said.
Farja Ali, 46, another resident of Baqubah, shared similar sentiments. "We hope that the arrested people will be punished in the same way they killed citizens and that they will receive a similar judgment as they did to innocent people -- in other words, death," she said.