Members of the Iraqi police arrested five suspected al-Qaeda leaders and killed two others during a security operation in Salah al-Din, police announced Sunday (November 27th).
An estimated 100 members of the Iraqi security forces participated in the operation in the Dayyum area, west of Tikrit.
"The operation was launched based on intelligence information the police had been working on for a whole month," said Brig. Gen. Jassem Wadi al-Samarrae, deputy commander of the Salah al-Din police.
Al-Samarrae told Mawtani a clash occurred between Iraqi forces and the suspects who were entrenched inside a house above a weapons depot. The fight lasted more than 45 minutes and resulted in the death of two suspects and the capture of five others.
The detainees were identified as Sameer Ali, Mahdi al-Dayeni, Jamal al-Dujaily, Salem Gasusa and Luay Khazaal.
"They are involved in horrific crimes and previously escaped to a neighboring country, where they received plastic surgery to change their appearance before returning to resume their terrorist activities," al-Samarrae said.
One member of the Iraqi forces was killed, and four others were wounded during the exchange.
Al-Samarrae said the detainees were transferred to an Iraqi army security detention center and will be transported to Baghdad to be prosecuted in Iraqi courts.
Security forces seized 200 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the operation. Each weighed between three and eight kilograms, and they were hidden in an underground facility.
"It is believed this was the strategic storage location for the al-Qaeda organization, which they used in attacks on the Iraqi army and police convoys, and in targeting markets, public spaces and government offices," al-Sammarae said. "Also seized were 300 mortar rounds, TNT sticks, weapons and light arms ammunition."
Lt. Col. Safa Ghanim, commander of the Salah al-Din Police Rapid Intervention Force, told Mawtani that an Iraqi army engineering unit transported the IEDs and rocket rounds to a military base in the desert west of Tikrit where they will be destroyed.
"The huge stock of explosives that al-Qaeda kept would have maintained operations for its daily death machine for more than a full year," he said.
Ghanim said the security operation was of high quality and represented a painful blow to al-Qaeda.
"The terrorist group lost seven of its leaders, aside from its weapons depot which must have required the collection of huge funds, both of which are now generally in short supply among the terrorists in Iraq today," he said.
Khamees al-Abid, a member of the defense and security committee in the Salah al-Din Provincial Council, said the operation was "an absolute success, a great victory, and a source of optimism when we see the people and the legislative and the executive authorities standing in unison".
"Citizens who suffered damages at the hands of those terrorists, or had one of their family members killed, should visit the specialized courts in the province to file a legal case against them so a just punishment can be delivered," he told Mawtani.
Several citizens in the province expressed their support for the Iraqi forces' security operations.
"All Iraqis are calling for the continuation of these successful operations. They are for our sake and the sake of our children," said Abbas Fadhil, 34. "We want to see more arrests of terrorists, and the security forces will find supporters in every town, neighborhood and street they enter."
Ali Assad, 40, said, "Al-Qaeda terrorists are the most dangerous in history. Such operations must be resumed for the sake of goodwill and peace in our country and the whole world."