Iraqi police arrested 21 suspects on Tuesday (August 2nd) following a security operation targeting five villages in the Tharthar basin area.
The Samarra city police command said 14 of the detainees are members of the so-called Islamic State of Iraq, which maintains ties to al-Qaeda.
The security operation was launched based on intelligence suggesting a number of al-Qaeda members had gathered in the area after fleeing from other provinces, Samarra deputy police chief Col. Mazin Mohammad told Mawtani.
"In the course of the operation, three hideouts belonging to the al-Qaeda terrorist organization were uncovered in the villages of Baz, Sedda and Hamra," he said.
"They were stormed by army and police forces, who arrested 21 gunmen, including 14 wanted by the Iraqi courts and whose involvement with the Islamic State of Iraq organization was proved," Mohammad said, adding that Iraqi forces suffered no casualties in the operation.
Maj. Khalil Taha, director of public relations at the Salah al-Din province police command, said the detainees were members of three terrorist cells "involved in launching a large number of horrific attacks in the central and northern areas of Iraq".
Taha told Mawtani that security personnel also seized three tons of explosives and various types of ammunition, which were subsequently transported to the Sahla desert area for controlled detonation.
Samarra Mayor Mahmoud Khalaf told Mawtani that Iraqi citizens deserve credit for helping security forces fight terrorism.
"The secret behind the continuing successes of the Iraqi security forces in pursuing and capturing terrorists is city residents' collaboration with police and army forces," he said.
"The al-Qaeda terrorist organization and other groups have lost much of their strength in the city of Samarra this year because of the people's rejection of them, which led to more collaboration with the security services," Khalaf said.
Residents of Samarra welcomed the news of the suspects' arrest.
"The arrest of the terrorists should be a lesson and a tale for anyone who might be tempted to tamper with our security," said Bashar Ahmad, 32, a shop-owner in Samarra.
"The time of terrorists controlling people's fate is over. Law and order is all that Iraqis hope for. We also hope to see new operations to wipe out what is left of the terrorists," he said.
Government employee Mohammad al-Bazy, 40, said, "Since the start of the security forces' operations to rid us of the terrorists, the general situation in the city started to return to normal. We are again enjoying late evening activities, visiting each other and a thriving economic life."
"The terrorist groups used to stand as an obstacle against anything good for us," he said. "Continuation of these arrests means more prosperity and security for Iraqis."