Iraqi forces arrest 18 al-Qaeda suspects at Syria border

An Iraqi border guard patrols the Iraq-Syria border area, where Iraqi forces on April 10th arrested 18 al-Qaeda suspects. [Azhar Shallah/AFP]

An Iraqi border guard patrols the Iraq-Syria border area, where Iraqi forces on April 10th arrested 18 al-Qaeda suspects. [Azhar Shallah/AFP]

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Anbar border guard forces and the Iraqi army on Wednesday (April 10th) arrested 18 al-Qaeda suspects with support from combat helicopters.

The men were al-Qaeda leaders and emirs planning to cross into Syrian territory, security officials said.

The arrests came amid increased security measures on the border with Syria to cut off all forms of contact between al-Qaeda affiliates, the "Islamic State of Iraq" and Jabhat al-Nusra (JAN) in Syria.

They also came one day after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, announced the two groups will be merged into a new organisation to be known as the "Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant".

Brig. Gen. Hussein al-Azzawi, from the Anbar operations command, told Mawtani the security operation covered al-Qaim, al-Rutbah, Haditha, Anah, Kubaisa, Rawah, and al-Tharthar basin.

"The border guard, army, emergency battalions and combat helicopters operated as a single unit throughout the operation, and the terrorist cell was captured without any resistance," he said.

Iraqi forces also "destroyed a terrorist camp" in the Horan Valley, western Anbar, and destroyed three vehicles loaded with weapons and rockets that the gunmen were planning to use, he said.

These 18 detainees had been "involved in terrorist activities that targeted civilians, army and police forces, state institutions and civilian facilities", according to al-Azzawi.

All are al-Qaeda leaders and emirs who had been "planning to launch terrorist operations" in the Iraqi-Syrian border areas, and "merge with JAN in Syria", he said.

Quick response

Col. Mahmoud al-Hadithi, also from the Anbar border guard, told Mawtani that security forces pinpointed the men's locations in western Anbar and found they intended "to unify their cells of death and destruction with those of JAN in Syria".

"This necessitated a quick response by Iraqi forces, who foiled their plans one day after [al-Baghdadi] announced the intention to unify the two groups," he said.

Al-Hadithi said Anbar security officials immediately began interrogating the detainees, who "confessed to the presence of three weapons caches in the western Anbar areas of Horan Valley, al-Rutbah and Akashat".

These caches included 37 improvised explosive devices, 17 rocket launchers, 22 Katyusha rockets with five launch-pads, 31 medium BKC weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, nine launchers, TNT, C-4 explosives, seven Tao rockets, three explosive belts, and various materials used to manufacture explosive charges and booby-trapped cars, he said.

Capt. Haitham al-Assafi, commander of the 6th Anbar Emergency Battalion, told Mawtani the detainees "admitted they had established contact with other terrorist cells from JAN in Syria, some of whom had also planned to move their crimes to Iraq".

Iraqi forces took measures to limit contact between al-Qaeda in Iraq and JAN, including increasing the number of guards at watch and observation towers, combing the western desert, and reinforcing security forces in areas near the borders.

"Border guards from the second district banned shepherds and farmers from approaching the barbed wire and shared bodies of water, and deployed security units in border areas that may be used by infiltrating terrorists," he said.

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    محمد علي

    2013-4-27

    This is indeed a great accomplishment for Iraq. We know full well that the Iraqi people are suffering from the presence of many terrorists inside Iraq. However, we don’t see any of the government officials taking care of this matter. But there have been great efforts lately, wherein numerous terrorists have been captured at the Syrian borders. It is evident that they were on their way to Syria or Iraq in order to carry out destructive acts. We can now see scores of efforts being made in Iraqi with the aim of getting rid of terrorists. But will this be the real end of terrorism in Iraq and will all al-Qaeda members be placed behind bars? That is what we are all yearning for, i.e. to see Iraq free of any terrorists. I don’t see any interest in the presence of terrorists inside Iraq, but it is very likely that the terrorists are behind bars of Iraqi prisons. This is because we have seen the arrest of about 18 terrorists, but many times we see the Iraqi people expressing their desire to live peacefully without any act of terrorism.

  • zamel

    2013-4-27

    We are so much proud of the efforts of the Iraqi security forces and what they are doing in Iraq. This is because we believe that what is happening in Iraq must come to an end, and these terrorists will definitely end up in prison. We have seen countless acts of terrorism in all Iraqi provinces, and these things subject Iraqi people to unspeakable humiliation. We also see many Iraqi victims dying because of terrorism. We never foresaw that terrorists will perpetrate such crimes, but the Iraqi people have endured unimaginable circumstances. As a result, the Iraqi police have arrested approximately 18 terrorists in the vicinity of the Iraqi-Syrian borders. Therefore, we hope that more of these terrorists will be arrested because their presence in Iraq should come to an end in order to avert further terrorist crimes that we don’t need.

  • سيف

    2013-4-15

    May God curse them. I swear that they have destroyed us and became like the insects that eat people. May God curse their parents.