Iraqi security leaders have described 2010 as the "Year of Achievements" due to the string of successes made by Iraqi forces in protecting citizens and preventing terrorist attacks that would have killed hundreds -- if not thousands -- of civilians and security forces.
Security operations across the country last year killed and arrested scores of terrorists, many of whom were top al-Qaeda leaders.
"These steps and achievements were made after security forces controlled Iraqi soil, and out of their determination to put an end to security instability and start a new page for the future," said Iraqi Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari.
According to Defense and Interior Ministry records, Iraqi security forces arrested more than 1,400 terrorist suspects in security operations across the country. The individuals who were detained in 2010 included scores of terrorists described as top leaders of various terrorist groups.
One of the most prominent operations was launched in Kirkuk province on January 11th in which Mekki Abdullah al-Izzawi, described as the "emir of al-Qaeda in northern Iraq," was arrested together with two of his aides.
Also in January, the Interior Ministry announced the arrest of Ali Hussain, "the mastermind of the attack on UN offices in Baghdad in 2003". The suspect was arrested in a well-planned attack by Iraqi forces on an al-Qaeda stronghold in northeastern Baghdad. A statement by the Ministry of Defense released at that time described the arrest as a "major victory for Iraqis and all world countries".
February saw the arrest of Abu Jaafar -- the so-called "emir of al-Qaeda in Anbar" -- by Iraqi forces in the city of Fallujah, along with two of his aides. In addition, the "finance minister of the Islamic State of Iraq" -- Hashim al-Anzi -- was caught in a western Anbar security operation at an al-Qaeda training camp. Eleven individuals known for training snipers and detonating improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were also arrested.
In March, Iraqi forces arrested 39 suspected terrorists of Ansar al-Sunna and al-Qaeda in three different operations in the north and east of Babil.
By April, Anbar police command announced the arrest of the Hameed Hulail al-Obeidi and two of his aides; al-Obeidi was known as the "wali of al-Qaeda in southern Baghdad." Furthermore, Diyala provincial police announced the end of a security operation with the arrest of 123 wanted individuals, "including Sheikh Abu Massoud, emir of al-Qaeda organization in Diyala".
On April 19th, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki announced on state television that top al-Qaeda leaders Abu Ayyoub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi had been killed in Salah al-Din province during an Iraqi military operation in conjunction with the US Army near al-Tharthar. Salah al-Din also saw the arrest of Abu Khalil al-Mujahid, the commander of al-Qaeda-affiliated Birds of Paradise organization who was responsible for recruiting children as suicide bombers in the Salah al-Din, Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninawa provinces.
In May, the "wali of wilayat Mosul" and Saudi national Mahmoud Salama Bekhit was arrested together with a number of his aides following violent clashes in mid-town Mosul, ultimately leading to the seizure of large quantities of explosives and weapons.
By May 26th, the local government in Anbar announced the arrest of Emad al-Issawi, as known as the "Anbar cutthroat" who is accused of killing more than 200 citizens and security force members during his work with al-Qaeda. Al-Issawi was finally arrested in Anbar after three years on the run in an ambush by Iraqi forces.
In Baghdad, Tikrit, Fallujah, Mosul and other Iraqi cities, security forces arrested five individuals billed as leaders of the Sharia Council of Ansar al-Sunna organization in Iraq, as well as Iskandar Obeid, executive leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq who was also serving as the official in charge of the military wing of al-Qaeda in the northern regions.
On November 27th, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced the arrest of the terrorist cell responsible for the Sayedat al-Najat Church attack in central Baghdad, in which scores of people were killed and wounded. The detainees included Sheikh Hudhaifa al-Batawi, the man seen as the military leader of al-Qaeda in Baghdad.
Foiled plots, weapons cache discoveries
On January 25th, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced the arrest of 67 suspects in connection with terrorism charges following a security operation launched in the provinces of Baghdad, Anbar, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Babil. During the maneuver, Iraqi forces seized 70 landmines, 34 IEDs, 18 sticky bombs and seven explosives vests.
The Ministry of Defense displayed the confessions of nine terrorists arrested in Ninawa and Baghdad. They included Arab nationals who were involved in attacks against security forces and civilians, and who were also involved in business extortion to finance their terrorist operations.
In early February, Iraqi border-guard forces announced the arrest of six individuals billed as suicide bombers who entered Iraq to launch terrorist attacks against citizens during the parliamentary election. The operation also led to the discovery of a secret passage used by al-Qaeda terrorists to move from and to Iraq.
Former Anbar police chief Maj. Gen. Bahaa al-Karkhi announced the launch of a preemptive security operation billed as the largest in the province. The operation led to the arrest of 74 suspects and the seizure of nine explosives vests, 780 kg of explosives and 234 various weapons.
Success continued in Ninawa province where a provincial police force arrested 15 individuals, described as al-Qaeda's missile launch company, and destroyed seven missile launchers, according to Col. Khalid Naji of Ninawa police. The governor of Ninawa also announced last March the arrest of 12 individuals accused of bombing churches and attacking popular markets in Mosul.
Also last March, Anbar police announced the arrest of 14 suspects who security officials said were involved in the assassination attempt against the governor of Anbar, the infiltration of foreign suicide bombers into Iraq, as well as the detonation of seven car bombs in various areas across western Iraq.
Ministry of Defense officials also announced that 43 individuals who constituted a communication and coordination cell between terrorist groups across Iraqi provinces were arrested. Moreover, al-Qaeda's Sharia mufti and six other wanted individuals were detained.
Besides arresting and killing a large number of terrorists, Iraqi security forces also managed to close many security files after arresting suspects and bringing them to the Iraqi judiciary. Iraqi security officials take pride in the advanced stages that were reached by the intelligence cells within the Iraqi security forces that thwarted a large number of terrorist attacks that could have otherwise killed hundreds of citizens.
One of the most prominent terrorist attacks that were thwarted includes a major operation targeting government ministry buildings and many security sites in Baghdad. After Iraqi forces received intelligence, they carried out a security operation in different areas across Baghdad that led to the arrest of 25 suspects accused of planning the attacks, in addition to the discovery of large quantities of explosives, rocket-propelled grenades and weapons.
New advancements for security forces
Beyond capturing suspects and uncovering terrorist plots, the achievements of the Iraqi forces in 2010 include the introduction of new equipment for maintaining security. During the past year, Iraqi security forces introduced modern technologies and military equipment into the police and army, including US-made Abrams tanks and helicopters, thermal cameras to protect Iraqi borders and detect infiltrators, and police dogs units to assist the Iraqi police in searching vehicles and buildings for bombs.
Scores of police centers and security headquarters have also been opened in provinces across the country. A river police force was created for the first time in the history of Anbar, with 400 security personnel assigned the task of protecting rivers and lakes against their use as routes for launching terrorist attacks.
Iraqi forces also took over a number of military bases from US forces, including the bases of al-Shuabia, Scania and Bucca. The handovers came in implementation of the security agreement that was signed between the Iraqi and US governments.
On July 21st, the Iraqi Army in Tikrit celebrated the graduation of 20 fighter pilots who had completed their training in the United States.
By October 17th, sectors of the Iraqi Army conducted a military drill using live ammunition in the city of Najaf for the first time. The drill was attended by a number of Iraqi Army leaders and was conducted under the supervision of US Army training experts.
Iraqi Ministry of Defense spokesperson Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari told Mawtani that "we can describe 2010 as the year of achievement for the Iraqi forces and year of disintegration for the terrorists."
"The most important achievement of the Iraqi forces was self-denial and loyalty for homeland. We are sure that these successes will continue into the next year," he said.
Commander of Mid-Euphrates Operations Lt. Gen. Othman al-Ghanemi said, "We have succeeded in removing fears away from the hearts of citizens. I consider this the most important achievement in 2010."