BAGHDAD – The Iraqi Interior Ministry announced that Iraqi police captured a top Al-Qaeda operative who since 2006 has been charged with incitement to sectarian violence as he attempted to return to Iraq from Syria where he has been in hiding.
“We have arrested Naif Saadi Ali Rakhit, a top Al-Qaeda operative and one of those responsible for igniting sectarianism in Iraq in 2006”, said Major Yusif Al-Dhari. He added that, “Rakhit has been in hiding in Syria for some time. Our sources informed us that he entered Iraq last night by land. He was immediately arrested by our forces that had been monitoring him while he was at a restaurant.”
Rakhit is high on the Iraqi government’s most wanted list. He is accused of killing three Shi’a sheep traders in the Saqlawiyah area. He committed the slayings with the objective of having the area’s Sunni inhabitants blamed for them, which sparked off a war of revenge killings between the two sides that lasted until mid-2008.
According to security sources at the interior ministry, Rakhit has confessed to 11 counts of theft and murder so far. Investigations of other charges are ongoing. The sources added that he was also in possession of information about the robbery and rape of four Jordanian women on the main highway between Baghdad and Amman, which passes through Anbar province. He also confessed to killing a truck driver, tying his body to a stone and throwing it into a river.
Rakhit was arrested just a day before about a million Iraqis and pilgrims came together in Karbala to mark the 40th anniversary of Imam Hussein’s death. The Iraqi Interior Ministry deployed more than 30,000 security officers to ensure that the ceremony occurred without incident and prevent the kinds of terrorist attacks that have killed hundreds of people over the past years.
[Free Iraq Radio website, Al-Arabiyah news channel]