Twenty-four al-Qaeda suspects have been arrested in Baghdad province, including 12 who are believed to have been involved in last Thursday attacks, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence announced Monday (April 23rd).
The al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic State of Iraq on Friday claimed responsibility for the bloody attacks that rocked a number of cities across Iraq Thursday, killing at least 49 people and wounding at least 187.
"In the past 48 hours, special units of the Iraqi army launched attacks on al-Qaeda organization strongholds in Baghdad and the vicinity in retaliation for terrorist strikes launched in Baghdad and a number of Iraqi cities that were openly claimed by al-Qaeda," Iraqi Defence Ministry spokesperson Maj. Gen. Mohammad al-Askeri told Mawtani.
The joint army-police operation covered the areas of Abu Ghraib, Mahmoudiya, Tarmiya, and Ghazaliya, he said.
"The 12 gunmen were strongly linked to each other and used to have their headquarters in Abu Ghraib and Ameriya," al-Askeri said. "They are now being subjected to intensive interrogation at the hands of the Iraqi security forces under the complete supervision of the Iraqi judiciary and the attorney general's office."
Col. Hikmat al-Masary, director of relations and media at the Interior Ministry, told Mawtani that Iraqi forces found "maps and pictures showing the locations of the buildings in which [the detainees] were captured, and the checkpoints and markets in Baghdad that were targeted last Thursday."
"The security authorities want to arrest the other accomplices in the Thursday attacks quickly," he said.
Col. Jassem al-Furaijy of Baghdad operations command in the Karkh sector told Mawtani, "Security forces found weapons, explosives and new maps showing that the gunmen were preparing to launch a similar attack in the coming days."
He said CDs were found containing information related to past operations launched by al-Qaeda.
Hassan al-Sunaid, chairman of the Iraqi parliament's defence and security committee, praised the operation.
"The Iraqi people, and especially the families of the victims, are waiting for the security forces to please them by arresting the terrorists," he said."We in turn are pressing on the government and the Iraqi ministries to accelerate the defeat of the terrorists and insure the criminals do not get away."
"Today's operation represents a message to al-Qaeda that the period of lawlessness and escape from punishment is gone, and that the Iraqi forces' retaliation will be painful," he said.